Did you know you can make a compass out of a needle? It’s a simple experiment and a great way to introduce the concept of magnetism, magnetic poles and the Earth’s magnetic poles.
Floating Needle Compass Science Experiment Video
- Sewing Needle
- Sturdy Paper (enough to cut out a circle two inches in diameter)
- Shallow Dish
- Compass (optional, but it’s good to have for comparison)
Step 1 – Use scissors to cut a circle out of the piece of paper. The circle should be approximately 2 inches in diameter
Step 2 – Tape a sewing needle in the middle of the circle.
Step 3 – Fill a shallow dish with water.
Step 4 – Use a magnet, and rub it along the needle in the same direction about 20 times.
Step 5 – Slowly place the piece of paper into the water. It will float along the top.
Step 6 – Watch as the circle begins to spin around until the needle is pointing in the direction of north, just like a compass. Note: Validate the direction by comparing it to an actual compass
How Does the Experiment Work?
Rubbing the magnet on the needle caused it to become magnetized. Once magnetized, it had a north and a south pole (just like all magnets).
Once the paper was placed in the water, it floated on the surface of the water and was able to move freely. At that point, the magnetized needle caused the paper to spin around until the north and south pole of the needle were in line with the Earth’s north and south poles.
More Science Fun
Magnets can be fun and educational! After doing this experiment, you’ll want to check out these other fun experiments with magnets.
- How liquids impact magnets – Follow this simple experiment to see how the magnetic force is impacted by different types of liquids.
- Paper Clip Chain – Use a magent to make a paper clip chain. How long can you make your chain?
I hope you enjoyed the experiment. Here’s some printable instructions