Our favorite nonfiction picture books include related, hands-on activities. I think these are a great way for children to learn and expand upon the information in the book itself. As I mentioned previously, I’m working on a navigation picture book. Along the way, I’ve collected some wayfinding activities I hope to include at the end of the book.
Of course I would never include an activity I hadn’t tested myself. Today’s task: make a compass.
Steve Spangler Science has a good version of this activity. He uses wax paper as the float. I sliced a thing piece of cork, about 1/4 inch. Also, I used a common household magnet, rather than one with a north/south designation. This meant I had to calibrate my compass with the known directions.
I wouldn’t recommend taking this sloshing compass with you on your next camping trip, but it’s fun to try at home. Let me know if you do and whether it works for you!
Kirsten W. Larson used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. She’s the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020), A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Her Who Changed Everything, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, 2021); THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars are Made of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, 2023), THIS IS HOW YOU KNOW, illustrated by Cornelia Li (Little, Brown, 2024) and THE LIGHT OF RESISTANCE, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Roaring Brook, 2023) along with 25 other nonfiction books for kids. She's a geek, LEGO lover, and sock enthusiast. Find her at kirsten-w-larson.com or on Twitter/Instagram @KirstenWLarson.
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3 thoughts on “Creating your own compass”
How very cool! When I read your blog, I find myself wishing a) that I had some kids around to do these things with and b) that someone had done sciencey things like this with me when I was a kid — I bet I would have enjoyed science more, and learned more as well! Thanks, Kirsten!
Beth, I have to admit that my kids inspire me each and every day. I write my manuscripts with them in mind. Go ahead and make your own compass. I won’t tell anyone.
This activity is above my children’s grade level, but this is a neat idea to tuck away for later!