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# Physical Science Learning Center Activities (page 3)

By Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Nov 18, 2010

### Magnets

Two of the “big ideas” for magnets is that “magnets can be used to make things move without being touched” and that “forces can act at a distance with no perceivable substance in between” (AAAS, 1993, p. 94). Children can also learn specific information about magnets such as magnets attract some things and not others, magnets vary in strength, magnets can be a helpful tool. Below are some activities for exploring magnetism with preschool and early elementary age children.

• Explore a variety of items (screws, paper, buttons, aluminum foil, pennies, paper clips, rubber bands, scissors, eraser, dime, bottle cap) predicting and then testing theories about what is attracted to the magnet.
• Make a rule about the objects the magnet attracts.
• Determine which is the strongest part of a magnet by trying to pick up paper clips with different parts.
• Experiment with different magnets (bar, horseshoe, ring, rod) to see which is strongest. How many linked paper clips will each magnet pick up? Record results.
• Move metal shavings with a magnet. How far away can you be and still move the shavings?
• Will a magnet move a paper clip that is in water? Will it move a paper clip through a layer of cloth, through a piece of paper, or through a piece of wood? Complete a recording sheet. Circle the smiling face if yes, the magnet can move the paper clip, and a frowning face for no, the magnet cannot move the paper clip. Teachers can design the sheet by either drawing or taking a picture of someone conducting each experiment. For example, take a picture of a paper clip that is on top of a red piece of cloth with a magnet underneath. Place a smiling face and a frowning face beside each picture, so the child can circle the correct one.
• Find things in the classroom that are attracted to the magnet. Draw a picture of each thing you find.
• Experiment with toys that are magnetic (magnetic building blocks, magnetic sculpture, magnetic marbles, Magna Doodle toy). Teachers can also create their own toys with magnets. For example, attach a magnet to the bottom of a toy duck and place the duck in a shallow pan of water. The children can move the duck around in the water. Tie a magnet to a small tow truck and let the children tow the steel cars.

When choosing materials or activities to explore magnetism, it is important not to reinforce misconceptions. Common misconceptions that children have regarding magnets are that all metals are attracted to magnets, all silver colored items are attracted to magnets, all magnets are made of iron, and large magnets are stronger than small magnets (Operation Physics, 1998, p. 7). For example, Cora had placed magnets and a variety of materials in the science center. As she observed children using the center, she discovered that they had developed a hypothesis and, after testing their hypothesis, had concluded that shiny materials are attracted to the magnets. Cora then added some shiny objects to the center that were not attracted to magnets. This allowed children to reexamine their hypothesis. She also added a book that provided information about magnetism. Teachers can help children look up information when they have questions that they cannot answer. However, as this case illustrates, it is important that the teacher is knowledgeable enough about the topic to recognize children’s misunderstandings.