A Compass of My Own

This science activity offers a fun way to learn about directions.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Attention and Focus
Critical Thinking
Following Directions
Experimentation

What you need:

• small bowl
• magnet
• long metal needle
• cork
• markers

What to do:

1. Your child can use the magnet to magnetize the head of the needle by striking it against the magnet 30 to 40 times, always striking in the same direction. Put a piece of tape on the end of the needle that is not magnetized.
2. Explain to your child that a magnet will always face north. Demonstrate this by tying a string to the center of the needle. Which way does the magnetized head face?
3. Ask your child to write N (for north), S, W, and E on pieces of tape. Help her affix these to the bowl, pointing out that east is to the right of north; south is behind north; and west is to the left of north.
4. Add water to the bowl. Stick the needle through the cork and float it in the bowl.
5. Outside, ask your child and a couple of her friends to use the compass to find which way is north. Then see if they can follow a set of directions using the compass. ("Go three paces north. Now go two paces east."). Suggest that they play a treasure-hunt game using the compass to follow directions.