Swashbuckling and salty talk add to the fun of pirate science activities. Teaching with themes is a great way to get children engaged in science. A pirate theme is exciting for science ideas. Compasses, cannons, telescopes, pieces of eight, and sailing all provide science ideas for pirate theme. Pirates are part of history and are enduring figures in popular culture.
Along with themes, I like to organize lesson units into stations. When you don’t have enough resources for every group of children to do the same lab, stations can be the solution. Elementary teachers are familiar with this idea (sometimes called centers).
Here’s my tips for station labs:
- Make one more station than you need (if you have 28 students, that would be 7 groups of 4, so make 8 stations)
- Make a check-off sheet for each student and quiz questions based on the stations
- Use the quiz questions after the activity (and before also if desired)
- Plan time for each station
- 15-20 min for each means 2-3 days for a station unit
- Rotate lab groups through stations, then sum up as a whole group together
- Rotate mixed groups through some stations, remix and teach each other
- Use many modes and materials
- Computers, LabQuest, journal articles, video, simulation, tutorial, equipment, research, and labs
The theme unit idea can be used for many ideas from pop culture and hot topics for children. Here’s inspiration for pirate activities for kids: Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Pirates of Penzance, Pirates of the Carribean, The Pirate Queen, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
In North Carolina, Blackbeard is “our” pirate (other states claim him, too!) Along with pirate science activities, you can tie pirates to social studies. Other famous pirates: Barbarossa, Thomas Cavendish, Sir Francis Drake, Charlotte de Berry, Sir Henry Morgan, Black Bart, Stede Bonnet, Captain Kidd, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Jean Lafitte, and Grace O’Malley.
Safety note: Be sure to explain safety precautions to children. This compass science project uses needles and magnets. Avoid injury with the needle and exposing the magnet to electronics or credit cards. Never let any child under 6 play with magnetic toys unsupervised. Never put a magnet in your mouth. If powerful magnets are swallowed, they attract each other internally and cause extremely serious injury. Disclaimer: All information provided on this site is for entertainment and education purposes only. Using any information from thecasabouquet.com is at your own risk.
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- First, you need to magnetize your needle. Choose the North or South end, then rub the needle with that end of the magnet in one direction several times (NOT back and forth). This should cause the needle to become a weak magnet.
- Use a screwdriver to make a line in the center of the cork slice. Place the needle on this “ditch” to see if it will stay on the cork. Try to have equal parts of the needle off the cork on either side.
- Float the cork and the needle on the water in the cup. How does the needle line up?
What happens to the needle when you bring the bar magnet near the outside of the cup? Why do you need the cup of water and cork to make a compass? Will the needle move to show the Earth’s magnetic field if you just lay it on the table? Real compasses are not in a cup of water. What is used to let the needle move? What metals are good for making magnets? How did rubbing the needle make it into a magnet? Is the North pole on a magnet the same as the North pole of the Earth? Can you use a round magnet to magnetize a needle? Where are the poles?
- Bar magnet
- Metal sewing needle
- Real wine cork, sliced into ¼ inch circles
- Dish or cup, 4 inches diameter or larger, half full of water (a pie pan would work well)
- Knife, pliers, screwdriver
- paper or notebook for recording results, pen
What is the science?
Content: structure and properties of matter, forces and interactions, magnetic field, magnetic force
Rubbing the needle in one direction aligns the magnetic domains in the metal to point the same way. Magnets are metals that have a magnetic field and can attract other metals. They are usually made from iron or iron alloys, but cobalt and neodymium are also used.
Earth’s core has a lot of iron and the Earth’s magnetic field goes through the core, out the through the poles and through space. The picture of the field lines is similar to the field lines around a bar magnet. (You can see these lines by carefully putting iron filings in a well-sealed resealable plastic bag. Spread the filings out inside the bag. Lay the bar magnet on top of the bag and observe the pattern the filings make.) A compass needle lines itself up with the Earth’s magnetic field.
- Avast me hearties from Lawrence Hall of Science
- A pirate’s life for me from Scientific American
- September 19: Talk like a pirate from Hobsess blog
- Captain Hook costume from Inspired by Familia
- Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge from NC Maritime Museums
- Swallowing dangers from the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Magnetic field of the earth from Georgia State University
- How a compass works from the US Geological Survey
My friends Kelly and Jen love pirates as much as I do. This is the first in a series of pirate science lessons we put together. To us, making learning of science work with a theme is as much fun as throwing a party! Yo ho and up she rises!
I’ll be looking for comments below, or contact me at lisa [at] thecasabouquet[dot]com.