Ready-to-Use Teaching Ideas: Science & Literacy
- A variety of large and small magnets
- Two small containers
- Metal objects, such as spoons, large paperclips, metal washers, small scissors, key chains
- Objects made of fabric, paper, plastic, wood, etc.
- Chart paper and markers
- Science concepts
- Math concepts
- Observational skills
- Problem solving
- Language development
Begin with a discussion to find out what children already know about magnets. Develop a language experience chart based on their comments. Then explain to the group that they will participate in a variety of experiments to learn more about magnets.
What do you think a magnet will pick up? Invite a small group to perform some preliminary investigations with magnets and a few metal and nonmetal objects. Provide them with two plastic containers, labeled "Yes" and "No." Introduce more objects and ask the children to sort them into the two containers based on their own predictions about which objects the magnets can pick up and which they cannot. Use the magnets to test their predictions.
Magnetic attraction. Collect a variety of different-sized magnets, including two large magnets that will attract each other and stick together. Put the two large magnets together and give each child a turn pulling them apart. Ask questions to help them describe how it feels as they try to do so. Next, give them the rest of the magnets to experiment with.
Remember: Children may not yet be able to fully comprehend the concept of magnetism. The important part of this experience is that they have opportunities to observe and describe what is happening as they experiment.
Making magnets: Send a note home outlining the concepts children are learning through investigations with magnets. If they have magnets at home, ask parents to walk through their house with their child and find more magnetic objects. Explain that they can make a magnet of their own by rubbing a magnet over a small metal object, such as a paper clip. They will need to rub the magnet over the object several times in the same direction.
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS: MATH
How much weight can a magnet lift? Collect a variety of metal objects that vary in size and weight. Begin with small magnets and ask the group to predict which items the small magnets will be able to pick up. Then have them conduct their experiments. Can a small magnet pick up several objects at the same time? Try the medium and large magnets. What happens if they hold several magnets together? Develop a summary sheet to record their observations.
The Magnet Book by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone
What Magnets Can Do by Allan Fowler
What Makes a Magnet? by Franklyn M. Branley