Polar Opposites

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In this activity, learners make a 3-D model of magnetic fields by inserting a small, strong magnet into a sphere. When learners sprinkle used staples onto the sphere, they'll see how the field works, as the orientation of the staples will change with "latitude." Adult supervision recommended. This resource also includes information about Iceland's unusual volcanoes, which have magnetic fields that seem to defy the Earth.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Model


Materials List (per student)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Volcanoes and Plate Tectonics
    • Earth Structure
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electromagnetic Fields
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Doherty, Paul


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2001