Polarity of Magnets
Grade level(s):Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3
Magnets have different effects depending on their orientation
Relevant words for students of older age: magnet, polarity, field
What you need:
SEP material to reserve:
- Donut magnets on pencils (E154 from SEP resource center)
- Bar magnets with red and black poles (E430 from SEP resource center)
- Large exploratorium magnets with handles (K109 from SEP resource center)
- Small square magnets with one side taped (K109a from SEP resource center)
- 3 blank sheets for each child
- Colored tape (e.g., yellow)
- 5 yellow (or tape color) and 5 black pencils for table 4.
- Pencils in different colors
- “Thomas the train” or other toy train with directional magnets at both ends of wagons and locomotive
- Instruction sheet with paintings of possible alignments of 2 bar magnets, and worksheets for table 3 and 4 (see documents attached).
Introduction with students standing in 2 lines across from each other. Closure with all students sitting together in a circle. Exploration / activities in 4 groups of 4-5 students; each group rotates to each table.
45-60 minutes. Introduction 5-10 minutes; activity at each table 5-10 minutes; closure 5-10 minutes.
Students will investigate how the effects of magnets change when their position in space is changed. Children are introduced to basic concepts of orientation in space.
Understand that magnets have poles; train creative skills; Introduction to the basic physical concepts of space, orientation, and force.
Prepare a large space where all children can sit down during the introduction. Prepare 4 tables with 4-5 chairs each, and set up the materials corresponding to each table.
Table 1: Set of donut magnets on a pencil, a blank sheet, and color pencils for each child.
Table 2: 3-5 vehicles of "Thomas the train" or other magnetic toy train cars (see below for example), a blank sheet, and color pencils for each child.
Image source: http://www.comparestoreprices.co.uk/images/ha/handelshaus-childrens-wooden-magnetic-toy-train--coloured.jpg
Table 3: 2 bar magnets with red and black poles, instruction sheet (Table_3_Instructions.doc), student handout (Table_3_Student_Handout.doc), black and red pencils for each child.
Table 4: 1 large magnetic wand with one side taped; one small square or rectangular magnet with one side taped (see attached photo, Table_4_Activity.jpg); student handout (Table_4_Student_Handout.doc); black and yellow (or other color to match color of tape) pencil for each child.
Lesson Implementation / Outline
Children experience that magnets have two sides as they themselves do too: Have students stand in 2 lines facing each other (i.e, each child looks at another child). The students are asked to put out their arms and connect hands with the student across from them. When the students are facing each other, the students can connect hands. After this, students in the line on the right, turn around so that the children on the left see their back. Now, students again are asked to reach out their arms, but this time, the children on the left side are unable to connect hands with those on the right. Thus, the children note that they can only connect hands when facing each other in the right direction. In a similar way, magnets can only attract each other in a certain direction.
Short explanation of the task at each of 4 tables (see below).
The teacher assigns each child to a group and table (4-5 children per group), and manages the rotations after periods of 5-10 minutes such that each group has visited each table in the end.
Table 1: Donut Magnet Activity (adapted from FOSS: Magnetism and Electricity Kit Investigation 1)
Each child has a set of colored donut magnets that they have to align on a pencil. Depending on the orientation of the magnets, they stick together or they levitate. Younger children create “necklaces” by putting together a nice combination of colors and spaces between them, and paint their choice on a blank sheet. Older children measure the distance between the magnets, depending on their orientation and number, and paint these distances on a worksheet. Children that finish early create another combination of colors and distances between magnets.
Table 2: Magnetic Toy Trains Activity
Each child has some vehicles of “Thomas the train” (train with magnets). Click here for an example. Depending on the orientation of the train wagons, they stick together, or they push each other away. The children find a combination so that the train can run without losing a wagon and paint their train on a blank sheet. Older children try to find out which forms of magnets stick together, and which don't. Children that finish early paint a landscape surrounding the train.
Table 3: Colored bar magnet activity
Each child has 2 bar magnets with a red and black pole. Younger children have an instruction sheet (attached) showing 4 different possibilities of how these 2 magnets can be aligned with each other (black red – red black; red black – red black; red black – black red; black red – black red). Older children have to find these 4 possibilities themselves. The children try to hold together the magnets according to these combinations, and find out if they stick together. On the worksheet sheet (attached), they mark the combinations that stick with a smiling face (and the ones that do not stick with a sad face). Children that finish early try aligning the bar magnets on the long side and see which combinations stick.
Table 4: Magnet drop activity (see attached photo for details on setup)
Each child has one large magnetic wand and one small magnet lying on the table. Each magnet has one side marked with colored tape. Older children drop the small magnet 10 times on the table without the large magnet and children color the upside-lying color of the small magnetic on their worksheet (attached). It sometimes lands with the taped side up, sometimes with the taped side down. Then, the small magnet is dropped 10 times on the large magnet and again, color in the upside-lying color of the small magnet on their worksheet (attached). It always lands with the taped side on top. Thus, in the end the children have the “two magnets” side of their worksheet all painted with one color, the “one magnet” side with a random order of 2 colors, and have thus visualized in an intuitive way, the constant effect of magnets. Younger children repetitively drop the small magnet on the large magnetic wand. Depending on the upside color of the large magnetic wand, the small magnet always lands with the corresponding color up. This is visualized on a worksheet (modify attached worksheet). Older children that finish early turn around the magnetic wand and repeat the game on a new worksheet. This time, it’s the non-taped side that always lies upside.
Teacher and scientists observe and assist the students at each table. Questions to ask: What did you just observe? Why might that be?
All children get back together in a circle with their paintings. Short recap of each table by letting some children show their paintings and explain what they found. Basic explanation that magnets have different sides with different effects. Questions and answers.