As part of our Paths of Exploration curriculum for the Christopher Columbus unit, we decided to research how to make a compass. We found an easy 20 minute project and decided to make it!! The boys completed a Scientific Speculation Sheet from our Apologia Curriculum and added this to their Paths of Exploration Student Notebook. Below are the details for how to make a compass!
- A Small Piece of Cork
- A Sharpie
- A Plastic Lid
- A Needle
- A Magnet
1. Write the initial for the cardinal directions on the inside of the plastic lid (see picture at the top of the post).
2. Place the lid on the table with the “N” pointing North.
4. Take the magnet and brush the needle over it moving your hand in the same direction several times (do not go back and forth, just one direction).
5. Push the needle through the small piece of cork. Be sure the cork will be able to float freely in the water in the plastic lid before you push the needle through.
6. Place the needle and cork in the water. One end of the needle should be pointing North.
7. Turn the lid now to see what happens. Document the results.
So What Is happening?
Magnetic fields contain a force that is created by moving electrical charges. The Earth produces a magnetic field and this field is quite weak. It is sufficiently strong enough to align magnetized objects, such as the needle in our compass. By floating the needle on the cork, you allowed it to rotate freely. So the needle became lined up with Earth’s magnetic field and points toward the north or south pole of the planet.
For a very detailed middle / high school level explanation of what is happening with the magnetism, see this GREAT article on Magnetism by Dr. Lensyl Urbano (PhD Geology and Geophysics) from Montessori Muddle. I’ve been following this blog for a while and it is one of my favorites for upper level science with a hands-on perspective.
As we work through the Paths of Exploration curriculum this summer, there will be lots more hands-on posts, so stay tuned!
Until next time….