Posted by: csdailyblog | October 8, 2011

Family Weekend Field Instruction

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Navigating with a compass is an important skill in the Northwoods, and one that fewer and fewer people are familiar with in this digital age, now that cell phones with GIS capability have become so common. Conserve School students learn this basic backwoods skill, along with map-reading and a plethora of other outdoor skills, during Field Instruction class, which meets twice a week for a block that’s over twice as long as the standard high school class period.

This past Friday, parents had a chance to participate in the first in a series of navigation lessons while shadowing their students during our Family Weekend festivities.

So why learn to use a map and compass for navigation now that we’ve all got smart phones? Frequently cell coverage is spotty in remote areas in northern Wisconsin (in other words, here), and cell phones have a way of being forgotten or running out of juice at the most inconvenient moments. We give our students a compass and whistle as soon as they arrive at Conserve School and ask them to keep it with them at all times, just in case. Since our campus stretches lengthwise just under the Michigan border, with the Ottowa National Forest to the north and civilization, more or less, to the south, we tell students to remember to just check their compass and head south if they ever find themselves turned around in the woods north of campus.

In the accompanying pictures, you can see students and parents with clipboard and compass in hand, puzzling out the process of following compass headings to targets that field instructors set out in the woods before class. Students followed the compass headings, and, once they found the targets, took journal notes on natural phenomenon identified on the accompanying instruction sheet.

Enjoy the photos — the colors are beautiful this time of year.

– Mary Anna

Conserve School is a conservation-based semester school for high school students. Read more about us at or on our Facebook page.


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