L (age 6.5) is currently reading one of my favorite children's books, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. In this novel, the main character, a girl named Minli, makes her own compass using a needle and a bowl of water. Since we were learning about magnetism and the Earth's poles in science, recreating Minli's invention was a perfect experiment.
The kids took a sewing needle and rubbed the tip against the North pole of a magnet, and the other side against the South pole. I invited them to verify that the needle was magnetized by sticking it to various metal objects / surfaces. We then threaded the needle through a piece of wax paper and placed it in a bowl of water. Regardless of which direction the needle was placed into the bowl of water, it would always spin to point to the North Pole.
We took the magnet just to make sure that the tip of the needle would always point towards the North pole of the magnet. The kids enjoyed manipulating the needle in the water by moving and twisting the magnet around.
We used the homemade compass to locate the other cardinal points. I turned it into a little treasure hunt around the house, where I called out directions for them to follow: "Take five steps East, take three steps South,", etc..
This little experiment was extremely easy to do, and turned into a wonderful learning experience for the kids.
For more learning and fun be sure to check out the LaLaLogic Critical Thinking Curriculum for Preschoolers which I developed.
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