Make a leaf compass

A leaf compass floating in water with North marked


You will need:

  • A pin or needle
  • A magnet
  • A leaf
  • A puddle or dish of water
  • A pen (optional)



1. Hold your pin in one hand and stroke the magnet along it from one end to the other. Repeat this 50 times, making sure that you always stroke in the same direction.

Using a magnet to magnetise the pin

2. Place your pin onto the leaf, pinning one end into the leaf to hold it securely. This is your compass.

Securing the magnetised pin to a leaf

3. Gently place your compass on the surface of a puddle or large dish of water. It needs to be able to turn freely to find north, so nudge it away from the edge if necessary.

Leaf compass floating on the surface of a dish of water

4. After a short time, the pin will align itself in one direction. Even if you turn it around, it will return to the original orientation after a few seconds.

5. Before you can label your compass you will need to work out whether it’s the point or the head of the pin that is pointing north. You could:

  • look at a map of where you are,
  • think about where the sun rises (east) and sets (west),
  • ask an adult!

What is happening?

You have turned the pin into a magnet, known as magnetising it. One end of every magnet is attracted to the Earth’s magnetic North Pole, which is why your pin will always spin to point in that direction.