Resource Library

ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

direction

direction

Direction is used to determine where things are in relation to other things

Grades

3 - 12+

Subjects

Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Geography, Human Geography

Powered by
Morgan Stanley

Direction is used to determine where things are in relation to other things. Sometimes direction is vague, like when we talk about things being in that general direction. For geographic purposes, direction is more specific.

It can describe position, like in the sentence Susie sits to the left of Adam. Susies direction is to the left of Adam; Adams direction is to the right of Susie. Direction can also describe movement: Susie can walk forward or backward, and she can turn left or right when walking to school.

Cardinal directions are probably the most important directions in geography: north, south, east and west. These directions help us orient ourselves wherever we are. For example, in the United States, San Francisco, California, is west of New York City, New York. If we live in New York, we have to travel west to get to California.

You can use a magnetic compass, which uses the Earths magnetic field, to figure out where you are or in which direction you want to go. Compasses always point north. If you dont have a compass, you can use the sun or the stars. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. So in the morning, the sun will be in the east; in the afternoon, it will be in the west. At night, the North Star in the Northern Hemisphere points north. The Southern Cross, which is a constellation, or group of stars, marks south in the Southern Hemisphere.

The arrow is a universal symbol for direction. If someone needs to turn right at a stop sign to get to the freeway, there will usually be an arrow pointing the way.

Fast Fact

Lost?
A simple compass can be made by floating a magnetized needle on a leaf in a dish of water. You can magnetize a needle by rubbing it with silk or a magnet.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Writers
Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Santani Teng
Hilary Hall
Tara Ramroop
Erin Sprout
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Hilary Costa
Illustrators
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 13, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.