Make Your Own Compass

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In this physics activity (page 8 of the PDF), learners will make their very own working compass. They will use a bar magnet to create an induced magnetic charge in a needle, then observe how the needle reacts to Earth's magnetic field. Although this activity was designed to be used after a visit to a museum exhibit about electricity, it also makes an excellent stand-alone activity.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • 2 sewing needles
  • 2 small flat pieces of foam (like from a foam food tray)
  • 2 wide plastic or glass bowls
  • 1 bar or refrigerator magnet


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
      • Electromagnetic Fields


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, COSI Columbus, 2009