Activity Introduction

Quick summary: In this experiment students make compass using a paperclip, a piece of cork and a bowl of water.

These Snappy Science resources have been created to boost science education in primary schools across Australia. Each lesson is designed to support teachers with the scientific knowledge, ideas and resources to stimulate a sense of wonder and curiosity in their students. Many of the big issues that Australian society will face in the future are around technology, energy, resources and climate change. All of these require students to engage with science – but most of all to enjoy science!

Science at Home: These Snappy Science resources can also be used to engage families in fun science and learning for life. You can download a student friendly version of this activity here and you can also check out the Snappy Science Digital Library.

General capabilities: Critical and creative thinking.

Australian Curriculum content description: This activity is relevant to Science Inquiry Skills across all primary year levels of the Australian Curriculum.

Year 4 Science

  • Forces can be exerted by one object on another through direct contact or from a distance (ACSSU076)

Syllabus Outcomes: ST2-7PW.

Time required: 10 – 15 minutes.

Resources required: Metal paperclip, enamel paint of nail polish, sticky tape, piece of cork, knife for cutting cork, magnet, bowl of water.

Safety advice: Students may need assistance cutting the cork – depending on student age and ability this activity may be either a student-led experiment or a teacher-led demonstration.

Keywords: Magnet, compass.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Brief summary:

In this experiment students make compass using a paperclip, a piece of cork and a bowl of water.

Students can use the Predict, Observe, Explain table on the Student Worksheet to describe and reflect upon this experiment.

You will need:

  • Metal paperclip
  • Enamel paint of nail polish
  • Sticky tape
  • Piece of cork
  • Knife for cutting cork
  • Magnet
  • Bowl of water

What to do:

Step 1. Straighten a paperclip and mark one end with a dab of enamel paint or nail polish.

Step 2. Cut a 1cm disc of cork.

Step 3. Use some sticky tape to fasten the straightened paperclip to the cork, so that the cork is even balanced.

Step 4. Stroke the wire with the south pole of the magnet from the unmarked end to the marked end about 50 times, making sure you lift the magnet high in the air between each stroke.

Step 5. Float the cork in the bowl of water. The wire is now magnetised and the marked end of the paperclip should point to north.


How does it work?

The most important elem

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Student Worksheet

In this activity you will make compass with a paperclip, a piece of cork and a bowl of water.


Explain what you think will happen:


Explain what happened:


Explain why you think this happened:

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