120–150 min.

Magnetic Migration

  • Science (Life)
  • STEM


Through a series of hands-on activities, students will work together to investigate the claim: Animals use Earth's magnetic field to navigate. Students will collect evidence to support or refute this claim by breaking the claim statement into several key elements. First, students will rotate through stations that build their understanding of magnetic forces and properties. Next, they will apply this new understanding as they explore Earth’s magnetic field by building a compass and considering how magnetic fields extend through space. Students will then divide into research teams and focus on if/how magnetism affects the migration of birds, sea turtles and sharks. Each research team will focus on a specific animal and will be responsible for sharing their findings with the class. Finally, students will consider all of the data they have collected in order to revisit the original claim and form a conclusion backed by evidence. As an extension, students will create a model of a device that uses magnetoreception for wildlife conservation. This lesson includes a companion, ready-made PowerPoint presentation to be used in the classroom.

Student Will Learn

  • 21st Century Skills
    • Collaboration
    • Communication
    • Critical Thinking
  • Design Principles
    • Defining the Problem
    • Designing Solutions
    • Communicating Results

Content Areas

  • Forces and Interactions
  • Physical Science
  • Life Science


  • Experiment with magnets in order to determine their key properties
  • Create a compass to investigate Earth’s magnetic field
  • Evaluate the claim that animals use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate
  • Organize evidence and construct a response that supports or refutes the claim

Grade Levels


Suggested Time

  • 120–150 minutes (2-3 class sessions)