Gereau students learn to read maps, compasses

Staff Photo by Joel Turner: The Gereau Center students learned to use a compass and the importance of being accurate when using a compass.

For students at the Gereau Center, the importance of accuracy in using a compass isn't likely to be forgotten soon.

"If you are in a rocket ship and you are headed to he moon, and you are off by ½ of 1 degree in your direction of travel, you will miss the moon," said Tommy Pendleton, field director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Council of the Boy Scouts.

It will be a long trip to miss the target, he said.

"The key is to be accurate in using a compass," Pendleton told the students. "If you don't remember anything else I say, remember to be accurate with the compass."

Pendleton taught the students in teacher Todd Stubbs' health and physical education classes how to read and interpret maps and use a compass.

Before Pendleton began teaching and entertaining the students with his wit, Stubbs told his students that learning to read maps and using a compass is "fun and a life skill" that they might need someday.

Using a map of the Boy Scouts' 16,000-acre Blue Ridge Reservation in Pulaski County, Pendleton gave the students a lesson in map colors, contour lines, contour intervals, map scales, symbols and legends, arrows and directions, and elevations.

Colors are important on maps, he said. Blue represents lakes and water; green is land, trees, grass and forest land; white is residential area; black lines are contour lines and represent elevations.

"Contour lines show you what a mountain looks like on a flat map," he told the students.

A former high school math teacher, Pendleton gave the Gereau students a detailed explanation of what a compass is, how it operates and how to use it accurately.

Basically, a compass is a magnet and must be kept away from metal objects to operate correctly, he said.

"If you are wearing a "I WON THE RODEO" belt buckle, don't put the compass near the buckle because it will stick to the buckle," Pendleton said.

"Hold the compass flat and in front of you," he told the students.

He taught the students about degrees, bearings, direction of travel and other compass terminology.

Pendleton also taught the students about distance and direction by taking them outside and measuring distance. The students measured distances by counting their number of steps in walking 100 feet.

The students tested their knowledge of maps and compass by conducting a scavenger hunt Friday.



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