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Activity 13

Lesson Topic: Magnetism, Latitude and Longitude, Compass Direction

Objectives: This is a two-step hands-on activity that has students examining the concept
of magnetism and building a compass using these newly learned concepts of magnetism.
Students will learn how bar magnets work, how to magnetize a metal object, how to build
a compass using magnetism, and how to operate a compass.
NCTM Content Standard Objectives:
Physical Sciences
Properties of objects and materials
Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism
Motions and forces
Science and Technology
Abilities of technological design
Understanding about science and technology
Ohio Science Academic Content Standards: Students demonstrate an understanding of
the composition of physical systems and the concepts and principles that describe and
predict physical interactions and events in the natural world. This includes demonstrating
an understanding of the structure and properties of materials and objects. Students will
also recognize that science and technology are interconnected and that using technology
involves assessment of the benefits, risks, and costs. Students should build scientific and
technological knowledge, as well as the skill required to design and construct devices.
2 bar magnets
Sewing needle
One straw
Plastic bowl or dish
Small sticker
Sharpie marker
Compass (if desired)
Understanding Magnetism worksheet
Building a Compass worksheet

Activity 13
Magnetism and the Poles Concept Sheet :

What is magnetism? It is an invisible force that attracts certain metals, like iron. This
force is something that pushes or pulls an object. Any material that creates this force
is called a magnet and are said to be magnetic. Magnets have two polesnorth and
south. They will pull toward, or attract each other, or repel each other, according to
which ends are pointed towards each other.

Some natural rocks can be magnetic due to having a type of iron material: magnetite.
Scientists believe magnetite has been magnetized by the earths magnetic field when
the material hardens and cools from its molten state.

The area around a magnet in which objects are affected by its magnetic force is called
its magnetic field. The magnetic force of a magnet is stronger close to the poles of
the magnet. The Earth is actually like a huge bar magnet. It has a north pole and a
south pole just like bar magnets. Any magnets located close to the Earth will point in
approximately the same directiontoward the North Pole. A compass is a small
magnet that is free to move on its axis. Due to the Earths magnetic field, the
compass magnet will always align itself in a north-south direction.

Activity 13
Instructional Strategy:
Part One: Understanding Magnetism
1) Instruct students to bring the south pole of one bar magnet near the south pole of
another bar magnet. Then bring the two north pole ends together. Have the
students record results on their worksheets.
2) Now instruct students to bring the south pole of one bar magnet to the north pole
of another bar magnet and vice versa. Have the students record results on their
Part Two: Building a Compass
1) Fill a small bowl or dish about halfway with water. This will be the body of your
2) Use the metric end of a ruler to measure a straw. Using a Sharpie marker, make a
mark at about 50 mm.
3) Using scissors, cut the straw at the line, and keep the 50mm measured portion.
4) Use a sewing needle that is about the same size as the piece of cut straw.
Magnetize the needle by rubbing the needle anywhere on a bar magnet for about
5-10 seconds, or 100 times. The needle is now your magnet!
5) Place the magnetized needle inside the piece of straw.
6) Place the straw (with the needle inside) onto the surface of the water. Make sure
you did not place the original bar magnet anywhere near the needle and straw or
the bowl of water. Also, make sure the needle and straw do not break the surface
of the water. If they sink, dry them before replacing them back on the surface of
the water. The straw with the needle is now your compass needle.
7) Determine the north and south poles of your compass needle using a bar magnet.
To do this, place the south pole of the bar magnet near your compass needle. The
end that is attracted to the bar magnet is the north pole of your compass needle
(because opposites attract), and the other end is your south pole.
8) Place a small sticker or marker mark on the north pole end to distinguish it from
the south pole end of your compass needle.
9) Observe the compass needle. Compare it to the direction of a store-bought

Activity 13

Understanding Magnetism Worksheet

Name: __________________________


Directions: Use two bar magnets that are the same size to answer the questions below:

1) Try to touch the two south poles together. What happened to the magnets? Do
they push each other away from each other or do they pull each other together?

2) Try to tough the two north poles together. What happened to the magnets? Do
they push each other away from each other or do they pull each other together?

3) What happens when you touch the north pole of one magnet to the south pole of
another magnet? Do they push each other apart or pull each other together?

4) Draw a picture of a bar magnet below. Label the north and south pole of your

Activity 13

Building a Compass Worksheet

Name: __________________________


Directions: After you have completed building your own compass answer the questions

1) Why do the same poles of two magnets repel each other?

2) Why do opposite poles of two magnets attract each other?

3) What does a compass help us to determine?

4) Why do you think the needle of a compass point towards the north?