"This is very handy," instructor Joseph Kinyon said as he used a Sharpee marker to draw concentric circles around his hand. "This is my knuckle ridgeline."
A semicircle of students standing near the Año Nuevo State Beach parking lot watched Kinyon as if he had inhaled excess fumes from his marker.
Kinyon, a mapping expert, was drawing a sort of topographical tattoo on his hand as a way to show students how the ripples of lines throughout a map represent the contours of hills and valleys of a landscape.
Through the course of an hour-long talk, Kinyon meandered from explaining how to read maps to how to use a compass and triangulate a location with satellites.
On Friday, 20 South Coast teenagers were finding their way around the compass, map and GPS unit as they wandered through Año Nuevo State Park on a series of treasure hunts. As part of the "orienteering" course, the teenagers were learning how to use the full gamut of navigational tools to learn geographic skills for future career.
That meant learning the basics of how to plot coordinates, chart a course and map out an area, skills that are key to responsibilities in park service, city planning or paleontology.
Wearing a complimentary compass around his neck, 18-year-old Raul Rodriguez said before this he had never known how to actually use the commonplace device.
"I used to think a compass just pointed what direction you were heading," he said. Interested more in a career in media production, he said knowing how to use a compass still might come in handy when he went hiking.
Organizers for the workshop say they also wanted to impart the larger life lesson of finding a direction and destination to their students. The exercise was a sort of metaphor: Whether wandering through the wilderness or through life, the most basic step of survival is learning to get from point A to point B.
"This is a combination of hard skills and soft skills," said Kerry Lobel, executive director of Puente de la Costa Sur. "It builds confidence in an unknown situation. There's a huge amount of fear of the unknown, and this helps break through that."
The navigation lesson was the final exercise of the Puente's Green Jobs Corps program, a series of federally funded workshops done in partnership with the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District to impart job skills to help boost the economy. Starting last September, the program funded an environmental field studies course at Pescadero High School and several free tutorials on wilderness survival, watershed management and environmental monitoring.
The Puente program will host a Green Jobs Fair at Pescadero High School to get their students networking with job recruiters in fields that could use their newly acquired skills.