In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about magnets. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Magnets topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.
Classroom Activities for Teaching About Magnets
Have small groups tie a magnet on the end of a stick. Then have one group member fill a shallow bin or a shoebox with different objects from the classroom, such as pencils, erasers, paper clips, scissors, and small spiral notebooks. Have each member call out an item they think is magnetic and then fish for it to see if it sticks to the magnet. Students can record which objects stick to the magnet and which do not. If an object has both magnetic and nonmagnetic parts, such as a pair of scissors with a plastic handle, have group members discuss the object. Which part is magnetic? Why? Students can then sort the items into magnetic and nonmagnetic items, and items that have both magnetic and nonmagnetic parts. Students can take turns filling the box with different items, and using different strengths and types of magnets.
Make Your Own Compass
Give small groups a shallow bowl of water and a cork with a small paper clip stuck on one end. Explain that you can rub a magnet against an iron object to create a magnet that lasts for a few minutes. Have students magnetize the paper clip and place the cork in the bowl of water. What happens? Give each team a compass and see if they can make any conclusions about the relationship between their corks and the compass. If no groups come up with the answer, explain that the paper clip faces north and they have made their own compass! The paper clip is attracted to Earth’s North Pole. Have the students label their bowls with the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west on sticky notes. Children should learn that these directions are usually denoted by their initials of N, S, E, or W. Have group members give each other cardinal directions to follow. Students may wish to create “treasure maps” and have partners find the treasure by using their makeshift compass.
Review the Scientific Method with the whole class. Then distribute magnets to small groups or partners. What happens if you put together two magnets? Do they become stronger together? Have students experiment with magnets, a variety of sizes of magnetic objects, and write observations about strengths of different combinations of magnets. Have them come up with their own experiment to answer the questions. Then have them share their experiments with the class.
Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About Magnets
Magnet Scavenger Hunt
Give your child a small magnet and have him or her go on a scavenger hunt to find magnetic objects around the home. He or she can collect the items into a group, draw pictures of each object, take a photo, or video the magnet at work.
Have your child hunt for tools and objects that use magnets in them, such as screwdrivers and can openers. How do magnets help us everyday? How do we use them? Discuss the items with your child. Then have him or her come up with an invention that uses magnets. He or she can draw the invention and write a short description. If possible, make the invention together!
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