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In order to be a productive treasure hunter you have to know where you're going! That means you'll need a compass. Don't have a compass? no problem! We'll make one!

Here's what you'll need:

1. a strong magnet 2. a paperclip 3. a cork 4. a bowl of water

What to do:

1. First, straighten out the paperclip. Try to get it as straight as possible, but be careful not to poke yourself!

2. Magnetize the paperclip by rubbing it against the magnet for about a minute. Make sure to use the same side of the magnet the whole time, and rub in one direction over and over again.




3. Have a parent help you cut off a small circle of cork from the end, about 1 centimeter thick. Then poke the paper clip through the edge of your cork circle (from one side of the circle to the other, not through the center) until the cork is on the center of your paperclip.



4. Put your bowl of water on a flat, still surface; then float the paperclip/cork combo in the bowl of water.

5. Now watch what happens. The paper clip should eventually point north/south. Try turning the bowl around to see if your compass will turn back to the north again.

What happened?

The earth produces a magnetic field. It's not strong enough to make refrigerators start flying around, but it is enough to align lighter magnetic objects with it. By floating the magnetized paperclip in the water you freed it up from other forces (remember our friction experiment?) so that it could be pulled around by the earth's magnetic field.

Things to think about:

Sometimes when you are faced with a hard choice, and you can't decide what the right thing to do is, it's kind of like being lost. What kinds of ideas could you use as a "compass" to help remind you of what is right and what is wrong?


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12 Comments
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Melinda Las Vegas May 21, 2017

I use the styrofoam packaging pieces, popcorn, that they use at the UPS store. It works great and is cheaper. Reply

hadassa brooklyn December 22, 2015

how many mitzvos do we need to do now? i think more than 9000000000080091 Reply

Yossi Fischer Augusta GA October 26, 2015

awesome experiment! its really works! its AWESOME!
but after like minutes the magnetic stuff wheres of so it doesnt turn to the north anymore. Reply

William Canada December 12, 2014

Paper will work if you place the paper flat on the water and then lay the clip or pin on it carefully the whole paper will turn Reply

Menachem Mendel Hazan Planet Earth January 8, 2014

paper to anonymous,
i wouldn use paper because it doesnt float Reply

Anonymous chennai, tamilnadu/india August 10, 2012

can i use an ordinary paper instead of cork? Reply

Amy and Dereck Kissimmee, Florida December 20, 2011

try it This was so cool, you can really learn from it. Reply

chaya mushka poughkeepsie, new york August 9, 2011

very good THIS IS AWSOM! Reply

chaya mushka newburg, u.s.a. August 2, 2011

trying going to try Reply

maia newburg, u s a July 31, 2011

good good one Reply

Chaya Gitel Dombeck Jerusalem, Israel August 14, 2009

Direction ... This is a beautiful message to impart to children and remind them of the gift G-d gave the Jews The Torah points us in the right direction...our magnet is the Torah. I discussed this with my 6 year old grandson and asked him what he would do if he had to decide for example whether or not to take something that he wanted that wasn't his.....he said the Torah. This experiment clarifies and reinforces a very positive message by giving a parent or grandparent a chance to discuss with the child where to find one's direction when faced with life's choices. And,how lucky we are!!! Thank you. Reply

Basya Brookline, MA August 3, 2009

Decisions It depends on what you mean by decisions. If you are trying to decide whether to have an apple or a pear, pink or purple, etc. , make a paper spinning wheel or ask a magic eight ball. If you're trying to decide to forgive your friend or continue to hate her, ask an adult for advice because they know which is right and which will make you a better person. (Great experiment; couldn't find a paper clip so we used a safety pin--watch out, it can be dangerous- which our Bubbie took the head off of and it was still quite difficult because of the twist. In the end we got it. That taught us that when you work hard, you can accomplish anything.) Reply