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Make a simple compass
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
  • piece of styrofoam, about 2 by 2cm with a flat base
  • thin wire that is attracted to magnets, long enough to stick through the styrofoam and protrude from each side e.g. straightened paper clip
  • magnet
  • tray of water, large enough for compasses to space 15cm apart

Stroke the wire with the magnet, picking up the magnet between each stroke, so that the magnet is only touching the wire in only one direction.
Push the wire through the styrofoam.
Float the styrofoam on the water in the tray.
The wire should orient along a north-south direction, as it is attracted to the earth's magnetic field. (A permanent magnet with N and S marked on it is needed to determine which end of the needle points north).


This activity was added to the end of the Magnets Play-debrief-play lesson.

Grades taught: 
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teaching site: 
General Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Gordon Elementary Science Club