25 Days of STEAM: Constructing A Compass Using The Earth

25 Days of STEAM: Day Nineteen

Constructing A Compass Using The Earth


This hands-on science activity is a fun way to learn about magnets and the Earth. We recommend it for children 7 and up!


As with all science experiments, safety is extremely important! We always recommend wearing safety goggles. Parent supervision is required.


Supplies You’ll Need:


  • Needle


  • Magnet


  • Scissors


  • Note Card


  • Large Mason Jar


  • Thread


  • A Pencil


  • Compass


  • Safety Goggles




  • Take the needle and run the magnet over it multiple times. This will magnetize the needle.


  • Cut the note card into a 1″ by 2″ rectangle.  Push the needle through the center of the card so that it will lie horizontal in the card.


  • Take the thread and tie one end around the pencil. Then tie the other end to the cut piece of note card. There should be about 2 – 3 inches of thread between the pencil and card.


  • Insert the piece of note card into the jar and lay the pencil across the rim of the jar so that the card is hanging inside the jar.  If the card touches the bottom of the jar, shorten the length of the string.


  • Set the compass on the table next to the jar. The needle should point in the same direction as the compass.


What is happening?



Compass and card. The device for the instruction of a direction and a card

All magnets have poles – a north and south pole. North and south poles attract one another, while like poles (north & north, south & south) will repel one another. It’s important to note that the Earth has a magnetic force that attracts magnets.


When you rubbed the magnet on the needle, you magnetized it. This means that the needle will have a north and south pole. The needle in the mason jar is free to move but will always point south and north as it is attracted to the Earth’s magnetic force.

Science Vocabulary:


  • Magnets– (n.) a piece of material (such as iron or steel) that is able to attract certain metals.


  • Poles – (n) each of the two points of a magnet to and from which the lines of magnetic force are directed.


  • Attract– (v.) the act of two opposite poles which pull to or draw towards one another


  • Repel – (v.) the act of two like poles which repel one another.