Researching the Earth's magnetism
Classroom Activity for 5-11
What the Activity is for
Our home is a magnet…
The Earth's magnetism has a significant effect on what's possible for life on the planet. This interesting starting point can form the basis of a number of research activities.
What to Prepare
- a compass
- an image of the Northern Lights ( Aurora Borealis)
- an image of a migratory bird
What Happens During this Activity
The Earth behaves as if it has a giant bar magnet inside.
You might launch the research by showing a floating needle being aligned by the Earth's magnetism. Here's how to set that up:
- magnetise the needle by rubbing the a pole of a bar magnet along it several times from the eye to the point
- use tape to stick the needle to the top of the cork
- fill a bowl with water
- float the needle on the cork in the water
The magnetised needle spins until it is aligned with the Earth's magnetism. You could emphasise that this is a magnetic effect by bringing a bar magnet alongside the bowl, and noticing the needle re-align.
The Earth's magnetism plays a really crucial role in protecting the Earth and is used in navigation. Pupils could research some interesting , for example: the Northern Lights; magnetic navigation in birds; early use of lodestone as a compass on land and at sea.
Scientists have been studying the Earth's magnetism for years and yet there is still no consensus on how it works. So don't be drawn into trying to explain it.