Dispatch from the ROM Trailblazers

DISPATCH – April 17, 2020

Hi Trailblazers, this week we’ve only got one activity for you… compasses! It’s a short dispatch to keep you on track… Don’t worry though, we’ll be back with a full Gazetteer of activities for you next week.


Long before we used apps and devices to find our way around, what do you think people used?

Sailors used the stars in the sky, the position of the sun, as well as sea and wind currents to help find the direction they wanted to travel in. Then, the compass was invented… and all that changed.

A compass is a device used to find the four cardinal directions: North, South, East and West, wherever you are in the world. With a map, it can be a great help for exploring large spaces like oceans and forests. It was first used in China as early as 1040CE, and in the Western and Islamic world around 1190CE. 

Compass with lid, Said to have belonged to Tecumseh (Shawnee), 1812, Great Lakes Region

Watch this video by OWL Kids to learn more about how compasses work.


The most common type of compass is a magnetic compass. In these tools, a polarized needle is attracted to the magnetic pull of the North Pole causing it to point North.

Beyond being reliable, magnetic compasses are also surprisingly easy to make! Let’s create our own working compass with a few objects from around the house, and by following along with the video here.


We want to see your compasses and what you do with them! Snap a picture and ask an adult to share it on social media! You can tag us @ROMToronto and use the hashtag #ROMTrailblazers

We’ll be back next Friday with a full Gazetteer of three activities! Until then, have a fantastic compass-making week.

Nadijah and Savhanna

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