How to Make a Compass

200 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 1 Pin It Share 199 LinkedIn 0 200 Flares ×

How to Make a Compass


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! 

Materials List:

  • 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.  

3.    Once the ink dries, fill the lid with water.  
Magnetize Needle

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).

Compass Needle Cork

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…. 



The following two tabs change content below.

Trish Corlew

Founder and Author at Live and Learn Farm
Trish has been married to her best friend, David, for 16 years and they have three sons (aged 13, 12 and 9). Trish is from the coast of North Carolina, but they now live in rural West Tennessee on a 40+ acre farm. She has been homeschooling since 2009 and her homeschool style leans towards a Montessori approach with a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. They also own a small business that Trish runs from home. Trish’s family is Messianic and they love studying the Scriptures, learning Hebrew and growing in their faith and walk daily. In her spare time, Trish loves to write, work in their garden and can regularly be found trying to learn something new, modeling that learning is indeed a life-long endeavor!


  1. We WILL be doing this! LOVE it!!! I know Aikman will love creating one, rather than just using a premade one. Or we could compare how well ours works, compared to the homemade one.

    Thanks for linking up to the Hearts for Home bloghop. I’m featuring you over at The Hands-On Homeschooler in Thursday’s Hearts for Home favorites round-up post.

  2. I should do this with how obsessed my daughter was with direction tonight as we were driving home.

  3. Steve Shipton says:

    Thanks for the great instructions about how to make a compass!


  1. […] Montessori Print Shop. Since we love hands-on learning, we decided to create our own compass. Here is that post.   […]

  2. […] POE student notebook, we printed out a great compass work from Montessori Print Shop. We even made  our own compass… but we didn’t learn how to use one, especially when using bearings and degrees. […]

  3. […] How to make a compass from Live and Learn Farm […]

  4. […] Over at Live and Learn Farm she shared two posts about compasses, the second one is about orienteering, and it’s a great idea to incorporate into your nature study.  The first is how to make a compass. […]

Let's discuss.... comment and share your thoughts!

200 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 1 Pin It Share 199 LinkedIn 0 200 Flares ×
%d bloggers like this: