This week we spent one whole morning (plus a bit of the afternoon) exploring magnets.
We started out by reading a chapter of The Magic School Bus: Amazing Magnetism.
I was delighted to find that the story is structured around a competition, the prize for which is a pizza party – this was a book that was going to appeal to at least two of J(7)’s passions! We read chapters in between doing our own experiments, which kept J nicely engaged.
Making a Magnet
We stroked a magnet along a needle in the same direction about twelve times to create a temporary magnet.
A magnet is made up of many tiny mini-magnets, or “domains”, which all line up and point the same way. Any metal that sticks to a magnet also has domains. These are jumbled up – but a magnet can make them line up, and the metal temporarily becomes a magnet.
When we dropped our needle magnet on the table a few times, the domains became jumbled again and the needle was no longer magnetic. Heat also jumbles the domains.
One of the books we used, Magnet Science, comes with a sealed transparent box of iron filings. We observed the patterns the iron filings made when we applied different shaped magnets. The patterns showed us each magnet’s invisible magnetic field lines.
I gave each child a glass of water with a paperclip at the bottom and challenged them to remove the paperclip without putting their hand in the water. Straight away they dipped the magnet into the water, so I had to add “… and without getting the magnet wet”, at which point they figured it out!
We used the fact that magnets with the same poles repel each other to create a cool illusion. We forced two repelling magnets together with a couple of pencils in between, and taped the magnets together. On removing the pencils, magnetic force keeps the top magnet hovering in mid-air!
Measuring Magnetic Force
We placed a paperclip at the zero end of a ruler and a magnet at the other end. Then we slowly moved the magnet towards the clip and recorded the distance in centimetres between the two at the point when the clip jumped onto the magnet. We tried this with different magnets to compare their strengths.
Magnetic Force and Gravity
This time we taped the zero end of the ruler perpendicular to the table and repeated the measuring process. We noted that this time the magnet had to be closer to make the clip jump, because its force is competing with another force – gravity.
Making a Compass
We taped a bar magnet to the base of a small plastic pot and floated the pot in a large bowl of water. After leaving the water and magnet to settle for a minute, we used a dry wipe marker to mark (on the large bowl) where the north and south poles of the magnet pointed. When we turned the magnet pot around, it returned to the same spot, its poles aligned with the Earth’s magnetic north and south.
(Happily, this confirmed our recent discovery, when we were learning about the beginning of Islam, that Mecca is in the direction of our pear tree!)
We taped magnets to the underside of a piece of cardboard, propped it up to make a ramp, and raced metal and glass marbles down it. We used our strongest magnets and an old iPad box, but it was difficult to see whether the magnetic marble or the glass marble won the race – I think we would have seen better results with a longer ramp.
We put a piece of paper on top of a magnet and made our own executive toy – paperclip sculpture. 🙂
We looked at pictures of magnetite, a naturally magnetic rock first found at a place called Magnesia in Ancient Greece.
The Magic School Bus: Amazing Magnetism gave us a story to structure our experiments around. The best experiments came from The Usborne Book of Science Activities Volume One. We also used Magnet Science (Hands-on Science), which comes with iron filings and a set of magnets.
This Squidoo lens has stacks of magnet ideas and links to resources.
Steve Spangler explains what magnets are and talks about their history. More experiments here too.
The children’s interest in magnetite and in the causes of the Earth’s magnetic forces (not to mention Minecraft) got me thinking that this could be a good time to find out more about rocks. Watch this space!
Magnetism also relates to electricity, which C explored in a recent project. (We loved The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, which taught me a few things about electromagnetism.) We’ll come back to this topic next time we look at magnetism.
Do you know of any fun magnet experiments?
To see what other homeschoolers have been up to this week, check out Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners and It’s a Wrap at Hammock Tracks.
For more science posts, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.
25 thoughts on “Fun With Magnets”
what fun! I love all of your resources — great pics, too. Thanks for linking with Collage Friday!
Thanks, Mary. We had all the resources on the shelf already, so it felt great to dedicate some time to really exploring what they do!
Wow, what fun! Your photos are fantastic. This is the best post on magnetism activities I have ever seen!
Thank you so much, Phyllis. Having seen your amazing Pinterest boards, that’s a great compliment. You’ve made my day! I was trying to put together the magnetism post I’d been looking for, I think!
Loving your blog! Have ordered the book and feeling all inspired.
Magnets are awesome, and watching children explore them even more awesome. And re: earlier post, you’ve inspired me to finally try elephant’s toothpaste at home. We’ve watched/co-participated in its creation a couple of times, but I haven’t managed to get it done at home yet. Mayhaps next week…
Fab. I think we’ll be doing it again soon, too. I saw a photo of someone doing it with orange food colouring and I found myself reaching for the peroxide…
Wow- that’s a whole lotta fun going on! When we did a magnet study we didn’t do 1/4 of what you have done. I might need a re-do!
It was great being able to spend most of a day playing with magnets. There’s definitely something to be said for sometimes being able to explore things in depth and not just breadth. (If only we had the luxury more often!) Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mary.
Wow! Thanks for so many great pictures, resources and ideas! I’m teaching a lesson on magnetism at our co-op next week, so I will definitely be pinning your post to come back for a closer look as I am planning for my lesson!
Thanks, Kirsten. I was surprised how many ways I found to play, once I started looking. I hope you have as much fun as we did!
Hi Lula, I’m just LOVING what you’re doing with your science! (still think a co-op led by you would be great!). In a couple of weeks time I’m doing a post on some changes which will be happening in our science homeschool. They have been inspired by a few blogs- yours being one of them. Would you mind if I link back to one of your science posts (probably the elephant toothpaste- so much fun!)?
Hi Claire – I would be delighted to be mentioned on your wonderful blog, thank you. I’m really looking forward to reading about what you guys do – I know it will be fun! I love the way the inspiration goes around the blogosphere. 🙂
Meantime, I’m trying to think up ways to make our history more fun, without spending a huge amount of time on it. Your blog is a huge help with that!
Lula, I love this post. You are inspiring me! Thanks for linking up to HammockTracks and I hope you’ll return today.
Thank you so much, Savannah. I love your It’s A Wrap link up – I’ll be back this weekend! Lucinda
I agree this is a great collection of magnet resources, and I love the floating magnet experiment. That is incredibly cool.
I was pretty wowed by the magnet compass too – I love having the excuse to play with this stuff 🙂
This is such a fun post!! I am working on a round-up post on magnet science & was hoping I could use a link to your site. Thanks for the great ideas!
Hi Karyn, Thank you so much! I’d be delighted with a link! Lucinda
LulaB, thanks so much for this very comprehensive post all about magnetism activities. I think I will be using some of these in my little homeschooling science group in Australia.
Ooh, you have a science group – what fun! If I were ever going to have a homeschooling group, I would want it to be a science group too. Then again a writing group or a book group would be fun too. Or a living maths group … Perhaps that’s what I’ll be doing when my own homeschoolers have grown and gone.
We enjoyed our magnetism morning very much. I hope you do too!