How Does a Compass Work: DIY Science Project Ideas for Kids

What would you do if you were lost in the forest? Would you think of a compass to get the right direction so that you reach your destination safe and sound? A compass is a navigation tool used for showing cardinal directions. Conducting science experiments for kids will enable them to understand science behind the concept you want them to learn effectively.

But, how does a compass work? It consists of a needle that moves towards the magnetic north. It is an extremely useful device for showing directions. Young children must get familiar with a compass so that they can learn to check directions for their science projects. To teach children how the compass works, make them perform easy science projects on how a compass works with materials available at home. 

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Suppose you want to lead people in the right direction under your guidance in the dense forest. How would you do it? Have you thought about using a compass? Compass is an amazing tool to show north direction irrespective of any place you are in. The needle of the compass moves freely to the Earth’s magnetic field. With the help of a compass, you can teach science experiments for kids related to tracking directions. Let us check what a compass is and how does a compass work? 

Step-by-Step Instructions on How Does a Compass Work?

A compass is a navigation device that helps in showing direction. It has a magnetized needle that spins freely. The needle keeps spinning until it stops at one end that is the north pole. For example, if you want to track the direction of the place that you want to reach, then use the compass for accurate information.

Most of the time, people use the pocket compass as it is portable and easy to carry and fit in your pocket. Needless to say, a compass was a great help in creating geographical maps to locate different places in the world. In ancient times, sailors used to check the North star to find their way. Later, the invention of the compass led to finding the direction of places easily.

Easy Science Project: How Does a Compass Work?

How does a compass work? Before learning this, children should be aware of the fact that Earth has north and south poles, and the planet creates its own magnetic fields when it spins. A compass consists of a needle that spins freely due to the liquid present at the center. If you hold a compass in your hand, the needle stops at one end, which detects the magnetic field of the Earth.

The needle always points toward the north and based on that, you can determine the other direction. At the edges of the compass, you will find degrees for the measurement. Check out some of the easy science project ideas for children to learn how a compass works are given below.

Aim of the Project

If you are lost in the woods, how would you find the right direction to reach your destination? To know where the north direction is, you can make a compass with the affordable materials found at home or in the classroom and check how it works. 

Materials Required

  • Magnet 
  • Needle
  • A piece of paper 
  • Water 
  • Marker
  • Bowl
  • Scissor


  • Take a magnet bar
  • Rub the sharp end of the needle on the north pole of the magnet for around 30 to 40 seconds. 
  • Then, flip the needle and rub the other end on the magnet bar for the same time. 
  • Take a piece of paper and cut it in a small circular shape.
  • Then, pierce the needle through the paper carefully so that it does not tear. 
  • Take a bowl filled with some amount of water.
  • Then, place the piece of paper with needles pierced on it slowly on the surface of the water.
  • Allow it to rotate slowly and observe. 
  • Finally, check the direction of the needle after it stops spinning. 


After the needle stops, check one of the ends of the needle pointed towards north and the other toward the south. Label them as north and south poles. The magnet aligns itself with the north. When the needles are rubbed on the magnet, the needles are magnetized due to the electrons present in the needle aligning with the magnet. Then, it later aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. 

Benefits of Learning How Does a Compass Work. 

Some of the benefits of learning about compass for children are mentioned below:

  • It helps children in recording the direction of the places in degrees, if they know how the compass works. 
  • It enables children to read the directions on the compass easily.
  • It helps in giving the right direction so that you can reach their destination successfully.
  • It is useful for carrying out science experiments related to navigation when they are totally aware of how a compass works. 
  • It helps kids to explore and hike places once they learn how a compass works. They can locate and track places easily that they are trying to reach. 
  • It provides knowledge about directions and navigation to children while learning how a compass works. 
  • It helps children in solving problems related to directions easily.
  • It develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills in children while learning about compass. 
  • It helps children to develop observational and analytical skills when they learn how the compass works. 
  • It boosts the confidence of children to work on science project ideas that requires them to handle direction related topics. 
  • It helps children to learn how to use a compass for finding the right direction. 
  • It enables children to understand the reading of a compass accurately. 
  • It helps children to perform well in their academics with better learning outcomes once they know how to use the compass correctly. 

To know more information, explore science games for kids, STEM activities for kids, science activities for preschoolers in the kids learning section at Osmo.

Frequently Asked Questions on How Does a Compass Work?

How does a compass work?

A compass is a navigation tool that has a needle that spins and aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field in order to show cardinal directions.

What are the benefits of learning how a compass works?

The benefits of learning how a compass works are that it helps children to learn about navigation and direction in an effective way. Working on a science project on how a compass works helps them understand the principles behind it.

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