Discovering Magnets – A Hands-on Activity
Looking for a fun and hands-on activity to let your young learners discover magnets? This post shows how learners can have fun discovering magnets in a hands-on activity.
This activity includes a free printable recording sheet so be sure to grab your copy at the end of this post. Let your learners discover magnets through this fun activity. Enter your details into the blue box at the end of this post to download your free recording sheet.
This simple activity requires only a few supplies most of which you should already have lying around your house. Let your learners discover magnets through this hands-on activity.
Supplies – Magnetic Discovery
- Cups (Use transparent cups so that the items inside can be visible)
- Magnetic wand or just normal horseshoe magnets will do (We used a few different types of magnets, it was just fun experimenting around)
- A variety of magnetic and non-magnetic items. I’ve listed the items we used below.
List of Items
- Magnetic materials
- Paper clips
- Ball bearings
- Pipe cleaners
- Wooden pegs (metal part; I talk about this later)
- Non-magnetic materials
- Water beads
- Aluminum foil
- Wooden pegs (wooden part; I talk about this later)
By now, you might realize that using wooden pegs was probably not such a good idea. My initial intention was to show that wood was not a magnetic material, and instead of using a wooden spoon, I used wooden pegs. I had forgotten about the metal part of the peg and how that was going to be magnetic.
It was a fun learning experience, since I pointed out how whenever the magnet picked up the peg, it was attracted to the metal part and NOT the wooden part.
If you want to use something wooden, please use a wooden spoon and the objective will be achieved just as well. In general, to avoid confusing your learners it might be safer to avoid using materials that contain both magnetic and non-magnetic materials.
Discovering Magnets – Experimental Procedure
- Take one cup at a time and ask your leaner to identify what the item inside is.
- If possible, ask them whether they know what material the item is made of.
- Then get them to put the magnetic wand inside the cup and pull it out.
Noting the Results
If the item gets attracted to the magnet then the item is magnetic.
If the item doesn’t get attracted to the magnet then the item is non-magnetic.
Discovering Magnets – Recording the Results
In the free printable below, there are two versions of recording sheets included. In the first one, the learners are asked to write the object while in the second one the learners are asked to write the material. Enter your details into the blue box at the end of this post to download your free recording sheet.
Print out a copy of the recording sheet for each learners and ask them to write down what the item is. They can then indicate whether the item is magnetic or non-magnetic by putting a cross in the corresponding box.
Magnetic Discovery – Further Investigations
I always like to ask learners to explore more about whatever they are doing, which might be just a simple extension of the experiment they just did.
- Ask your leaners what materials each item is made of.
- Get them to record down their answers of the second recording sheet. They can note down which materials are magnetic and which materials are non-magnetic.
- Mix together two items (one magnetic and one non-magnetic). Let your learners try to separate the two items using their knowledge and only with the help of a magnet and NOT their hands.
Questions for Discussion
- Discuss why some materials are magnetic and some are not.
- If aluminum foil was used, discuss why this item is not magnetic even though its is a kind of metal.
The Science Behind It
- Only some metals are magnetic and and magnets can attract them.
- Magnets can attract metals that are ferromagnetic. The common metals include iron, nickel, cobalt and alloys such steel.
- Any other item is not made of magnetic material and hence cannot be attracted by magnets.
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