Magnetic Science Projects Archive

  • Collect Micrometeorites

    Micro Meteorites In The Making

     

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    Every single day countless numbers of meteorites have been falling to the Earth. Why haven’t you seen them laying around? You don’t usually notice them because, by the time they land, they’re about the size of small pebbles.

    This is more of a collection than an experiment, although you can certainly use meteorites in an experiment due to the difference in their properties.

     

    Here’s What You’ll Need:

    • Flat open space – You’ll want to find an open area such as a field to try and locate your meteorites. This is a space with no trees in the way. If you live in the city, go to a park that has few trees and no large buildings around it.
    • A large piece of white paper
    • A magnifying glass
    • A magnet

     

    What To Do:

    Choose a day that is dry. This means a day that has little to no chance of precipitation. You don’t want it to be windy either. So choose a day that is both calm and dry.

    Put your paper on the ground in an area where it won’t be disturbed. Make sure that there is clear open sky above.

    Leave the paper for about 6 to 8 hours. The longer that you leave the paper lying there, the better your chances of collecting meteorites. It’s not a bad idea to weight the paper down, just in case of a random gust of wind or breeze. Placing a large rock in the center is the best option as anything that hits your paper will slide down toward the middle where the rock is located.

    When the time comes to collect your paper, do so gently and fold the paper up at the edges so that any captured material stays in the center and doesn’t fall out.

    Now, use the magnet and run it along the underside of your white paper. You might need to run it back and forth a few times so that it picks up as many metallic particles as it can.

    With the magnet still firmly up against the paper, tip the paper gently to let the dust and dirt slide off and allowing the metal particles to stay attached to the magnet.

    Dark particles with pitted surfaces are likely what you’re going to be left with. If they’re super small, try placing them under a microscope to get a great look at what you’ve collected. Chances are great that you’ve collected micrometeorites!

    There isn’t too much out there that discusses micrometeorites in a way most of us can understand, but here are three that look interesting …
                                 

     

     

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  • How to Make an Electromagnet

    Make An Electromagnet

    Objective

    This fourth grade science project is designed to introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    Recommend groups of 3 to 5.
    You will need the following for each lab station:
    Project Supplies

    About 6 Ft bare (no insulation) light gauge electrical wire
    About 3 Ft insulated wire. 12 gauge or smaller will be fine
    About 1 Ft section of the same insulated wire.
    2 to 3 inch section of ½ or ¾ in dia. copper tube
    Steel bolt of your choice
    Several paper clips
    16-penny nail
    #2 Pencil
    D cell battery
    Switch (optional)
    In-line light (optional)
    Compass
    thick rubber band
    2 to 3 inch piece of scotch tape
    small piece of sandpaper
    safety glasses or goggles

    Preparation

    We can use the optional switch and an in-line light source to show students that current is really flowing, but it is not necessary to demonstrate the concept. I plan to make that available in a fourth grade science project kit soon, so if you would like to set that up, let me know and I can help. To simplify the project, we will leave these out for now.

    To save lab time, recommend doing the following in advance:

    – Assemble the material in kits.
    – Sharpen the #2 pencils so the students can see the lead core.
    – Remove about 1” of insulation from each end of the insulated wire sections.

    That’s it. Now it’s time to have fun …

    Project Day

    Before anybody gets the material out, we need to discuss a couple fourth grade science project safety items. First, we will be working with batteries. Yes, they are the same ones they use at home in flashlights, games, radios, etc. The difference here is that they will not be in a protective cover. Also, we will be hooking them up with wires. That does several things:

    – The batteries will run down quickly if the wires are left on too long
    – The batteries will get hot if left connected too long
    – The wire will get hot if connected too long
    – Rare, but a battery could rupture if connected too long

    No panics here … just please insist they wear the safety glasses.

    Then tell’em all to have fun with the experiment, but if the wire starts to get hot, disconnect it from the battery and wait a minute or two before continuing.

    Now let’s get started …

    Compass deflection

    Have the students take the battery, the 1 Ft section of insulated wire and the compass out of the fourth grade science project kit. Show them where North is, and mention that the compass should point there now. You might need to explain that a compass is really just a magnet, so it will also point toward metal, like screws and braces under the desk top. Have them move the compass around until it points as close to North as possible. This just gives them a reference point to start with.

    Mention again about the wire getting hot if connected to the battery too long, then demonstrate how to hold the wire ends on the battery to complete an electric circuit. You can use the rubber band to keep the wire connected if desired.

    Tell them that the current flows from the positive terminal (the one with a + sign by it) to the negative terminal. As the current flows in the wire, a magnetic field is created around it. We can see that in our fourth grade science project by watching the compass needle as we move it close to the wire.

    Have one student in each group connect the wire ends to the battery, while another moves the compass around. If you have a fairly advanced class, tell them to put their thumb in the direction of the current (thumb pointing away from the positive terminal). If their fingers are straight out when doing that, they will be pointing in the direction the North end of the compass will point.

    Then explain that the magnetic field really goes all the way around the wire, and if they curl their fingers while keeping the thumb pointed in the direction of the current, they can see what that means as well. (If they are having trouble grasping the concept at the fourth grade science project level … just leave this part out till next year!)

    Have them move the compass around the wire to show that the magnetic field really does “push” the compass needle straight away from the wire all the way around. At some point, have them disconnect the battery to see what happens. They should see the needle point back toward North.

    The photo below shows what they should see.
    Simple Electromagnet
    Making The Electromagnet Work For Us

    Have the students take the rest of the items out of the fourth grade science project kit. Have them carefully uncoil the wire without insulation on it. Take the small piece of sandpaper and lightly sand each of the wire ends to take off any coating that might prevent completing the battery circuit. (You can do this in advance for them if desired).
    An electromagnet in action

    Leave at least 3 – 4 inches of loose wire on each end and wrap it fairly tightly around the bolt as many times as you can. Making the perfect coil is not important to our fourth grade science project, but do leave about ½ inch of one end of the bolt uncovered to pick up paperclips with in a minute.

    Place the rubber band around the battery as shown, but do not connect the wires yet. Try to pick up a paperclip with the wrapped bolt. Does it work? It shouldn’t … we have not made a magnet yet.

    Now go ahead and connect the ends of the wire to the battery. Try picking up the paperclips now. How many can you pickup at once? Does it seem like a pretty strong magnet? (Are the wires getting hot yet ???).

    Disconnect the wire ends from the battery. Did the paperclips fall straight to the table top?

    If you picked an iron bolt, the answer will be yes. If you picked a bolt that has steel in it, then it may take a minute or so for the paperclips to fall off. Steel bolts (or nails) tend to become magnetized themselves. A sharp blow with a hammer, or just waiting a few minutes can “de-magnetize” it, but we might not want to use steel for our industrial electromagnet if we want it to “turn off” quickly. To review what is happening here, take a quick look at how magnetism works.

    But we are not done yet…

    Unwrap about half to 1/3 of the wire so that just a few strands of the coil are on the bolt. The next step requires a bit of concentration as there will be several feet of wire dangling toward the floor … but that’s ok. Continue on with the fourth grade science project by connecting the loose ends of the wire to the battery again.

    Does it pick up as many paperclips? Does it seem to be as strong as before? The answer should be no to both questions. The strength of the magnetic field is directly related to the number of turns in your coil. The more turns, the stronger the magnetic field, and therefore, the stronger the electromagnet becomes.

    Go ahead and unwrap the rest of the wire off the bolt. If you have time, repeat this with the insulated wire. If not, that’s ok … but the insulated wire is used to show that our electromagnet does not depend on the wire touching the core material. In other words, it is not a wire-contact issue. It is the magnetic field generated by the electrons moving in the wire that “magnetizes” the core.

    Testing different Core materials
    Testing different cores

    Take the small copper tube out of the fourth grade science project kit. Leaving about 3 to 4 inches of loose wire on each end, wrap the un-insulated wire tightly around the copper tube as many times as it will go. Neatness is not required. Just wrap it tight. When done, put a small piece of scotch tape on the coil to help hold the wire in place.

    Have one student hook up the battery again, and another place different cores inside the copper tube. If you start with the same bolt as before, what happens? You should have a magnet that is just about as strong as the first.

    Try the pencil. The lead that runs through it is metal … so what happens? You should see that the lead pencil will not have enough magnetic strength to pick up even one paper clip.

    Try the nail. Most are made of steel so after the first couple of attempts to pickup multiple paperclips (which should be successful), be sure to disconnect the battery with the clips still on the nail to see what happens. If the nail was used as the electromagnet’s core long enough, you should see the paperclips falling off from the last one up to the one touching the nail itself. It may even take a minute or two, and the reasons are the same as we discussed above.

    You will find that copper is a great conductor of heat, so be sure to disconnect the battery for a couple minutes between each trial.

    So What Just Happened?

    For the teacher – the success of this fourth grade science project depends two things. 1) That a magnetic field is created as a result of electrons moving through our wire, and 2) we select a core that also has magnetic properties like iron or steel. The strength of the magnet will depend on the strength of our power source, as well as the type of material we select for the core and the number of turns of wire we have in the coil around it.

    For the students – we can turn an ordinary nail or bolt into a very strong magnet just by running an electric current around it. Our fourth grade science project shows that we can control how strong this magnet is just by increasing or decreasing the number of turns we have in our coil that we wrap around that bolt or nail core. If we use an iron core, all the paperclips fall off as soon as we take the wire ends off the battery. If we use a steel one, the core can become magnetized, and the paperclips will take longer to fall off.

    … That’s it for this fourth grade science project. It’s time to put everything back in the fourth grade science project kit box until next time.

    But – – -be sure to check back in a few days … making a generator with just magnets and wire is next!!

    If you can’t wait, or you would like a more off-the-shelf product to explore electro-magnetism and other magnet projects, these will help:

     

    Attracted to things magnetic? Here is another project for you:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/compass-deflection/

  • Compass deflection

    What Makes A Compass Needle Move?

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    A Fourth Grade Science Project: Compass Deflection

    Does a compass always have to point North?  If not, why not?

    What if we propose that it points in the direction of the stronger magnetic field?  How could we prove that?

    Earth’s magnetic field is certainly there, but as we saw in the magnetic science projects page, electricity and magnetism are definitely related.  So, if we have a stronger magnetic field than that of the Earth’s, might we be able to deflect what a compass needle will show as North?

    And what about the magnetic field induced from current flowing through a wire.  Is any of that related?

    Hmmm … let’s see …

     

    Objective

    This fourth grade science project is designed to introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.  In this project, we will show that a compass does not always have to point North. Instead, it will point in the direction of a stronger magnetic field.  And, as we will soon see, the flow of current through a wire will deflect the compass needle, which means something magnetic must be going on there as well …

     

    Materials Needed

    Recommend groups of 3 to 5.
    You will need the following for each lab station:
    Project Supplies

    The photo on the right shows the fourth grade science project kit for several experiments, but you will only need the following from that:

    • About a 1 Ft section of the insulated wire
    • 1 D cell battery
    • 1 Compass
    • 1 Magnet (any size will do)

     

    Preparation

    For this project … just remove about 1” of insulation from each end of the insulated wire sections.

    That’s it. Now it’s time to have fun …

     

    Project Day

    Before anybody gets the material out, we need to discuss a couple fourth grade science project safety items. First, we will be working with batteries. Yes, they are the same ones they use at home in flashlights, games, radios, etc. The difference here is that they will not be in a protective cover. Also, we will be hooking them up with wires. That does several things:

    – The batteries will run down quickly if the wires are left on too long
    – The batteries will get hot if left connected too long
    – The wire will get hot if connected too long
    – Rare, but a battery could rupture if connected too long

    No panics here … just please insist they wear the safety glasses.

    Then tell’em all to have fun with the experiment, but if the wire starts to get hot, disconnect it from the battery and wait a minute or two before continuing.

    Now let’s get started …

     

    Compass Deflection

    Have the students take the battery, the 1 Ft section of insulated wire and the compass out. Show them where North is, and mention that the compass should point there now. You might need to explain that a compass is really just a magnet, so it will also point toward metal, like screws and braces under the desk top. Have them move the compass around until it points as close to North as possible. This just gives them a reference point to start with.

    Mention again about the wire getting hot if connected to the battery too long, then demonstrate how to hold the wire ends on the battery to complete an electric circuit. You can use a rubber band to keep the wire connected if desired.

    Tell them that the current flows from the positive terminal (the one with a + sign by it) to the negative terminal. As the current flows in the wire, a magnetic field is created around it. We can see that in our fourth grade science project by watching the compass needle as we move it close to the wire.

    Have one student in each group connect the wire ends to the battery, while another moves the compass around. If you have a fairly advanced class, tell to put their thumb in the direction of the current (thumb pointing away from the positive terminal). If their fingers are straight out when doing that, they will be pointing in the direction the North end of the compass will point.

    Then explain that the magnetic field really goes all the way around the wire, and if they curl their fingers while keeping the thumb pointed in the direction of the current, they can see what that means as well. (If they are having trouble grasping the concept today … just leave this part out till next year!)

    Have them move the compass around the wire to show that the magnetic field really does “push” the compass needle straight away from the wire all the way around. At some point, have them disconnect the battery to see what happens. They should see the needle point back toward North.

    The photo below shows what they should see.

     
    Simple Electromagnet

    Repeat the process with only the compass and the magnet.  They should see that the needle of the compass will move with the magnet as well.

     

    So What Just Happened?

    For the teacher – A magnetic field can be created by current (electrons moving through our wire), or by a magnet itself.

    In either case, the compass needle will follow the stronger magnetic field, be that the magnet, the magnetic field induced by current through the wire, or the earth itself.  If only the earth’s magnetic field is involved, the the compass points to (magnetic) north. But, if we have a stronger magnetic field close to the compass, that may not be the case!

    For the students – we can make a compass tell us “North” isn’t really North by simply putting a magnet, or a magnetic field close to it.  So, we need to make sure we know what is the “driving force” on the compass before we rely on it to give us directions!

     
    … and for a more “out of the box” type projects for Magnetic Science Experiments, the following should help …

     

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  • How to Make a Magnet

    Make A Magnet

    This second grade science project is designed to introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

     

    Many of the items that you need for this experiment will be lower in cost and may even be in your home already. If you’re looking for something to do that younger kids will enjoy and that won’t take long to accomplish, this is the experiment you want.

     

     

     

    YOU WILL NEED:

    Paperclips
    Magnetite (if available)
    Several general-purpose bar magnets of different strengths
    One very strong Bar or U magnet
    One small hammer
    Compass

     


    Preparation

    This second grade science project requires one small step in advance. One or two days before the class project, put at least one paperclip for each project group you will have on the north side of the very strong magnet and leave them there.

     

    Project Day

    Ask the students if any have used a magnet before. Let them give as many examples as they can, then ask if any of them ever made a magnet. If yes, great! Ask if they remember how. Chances are that nobody will raise their hand, so ask how many would like to learn how to make a magnet to get the fun started. If you have enough students for a couple groups, give each group a set of bar magnets and about a dozen paper clips. Please be sure to set some second grade science project lab rules … like the paperclips stay on the table until it is time to do the experiment, and then, only one person touches them at a time, etc.

    Explain that magnets have a north and south pole, just like the earth. If this lab followed a compass project similar to this one, great … break out a compass from last time to remind them that it always points north.

    If not, give them a few minutes with the compass. Have them get in a circle, pass the compass around and have everyone who holds it point in the same direction as the compass needle. When the last student has had a chance to hold it, have everyone look to see where everybody else is pointing. That is north. Make sure to tell them it does not matter which way you turn the compass; it will point north (at least in this experiment!!). And that is because it has a magnet in it.

    To shift the focus of this second grade science project back to the magnet itself, ask them to look at the bar magnets. Show them that one end has an “N” on it and the other an “S”. That stands for north and south. The “N” is marked N, because a compass needle will point toward it if it gets close enough. We could also use it to make a compass if it were small enough.

    Give two or three students in each group a different magnet. Ask each to try and pick up just one paperclip with it. Then see if any can pick up another by only touching the end of the paperclips together. See who can make the longest chain of paperclips and make sure they understand the reason one magnet can pick up more than another is because it is stronger. Also let them know that the magnet has turned the paperclip it just picked up into a magnet as well. The next paperclip it picks up has also become a magnet, but weaker. Sooner or later one of the next paperclip “magnets” in our second grade science project will not be strong enough to pickup any more.

    Give the students some time to play with the magnets and paperclips. Make sure everyone gets a chance to pick up a few paperclips. Then, take one of the magnets, pick up as many paperclips in a chain as you can while the students all watch and be sure to tell the whole group again what they should remember about the experiment (same as in the paragraph above).

    While they are all watching, raise the paperclip chain up so all can see. Ask them what they think will happen if the magnet is taken away. (Part of the purpose for any second grade science project is to make a prediction, then test to see if it holds true).

    Hold the paperclip that touches the magnet with one hand and remove the magnet from it with the other. Does the chain of paperclips stay attached? No – they will all fall off. Tell them this is because each of the paperclips were only temporary magnets. They were only “magnetized” when they were touching a real (or permanent magnet).

    Bring out the strong magnet you put aside for a few days and show the students in this second grade science project the paperclips it has been holding. Take the paperclips off the magnet, and one-by-one, connect them together, just like before to show that this magnet will pick up a chain of several paperclips too. But this time things will be a bit different. Take one of the paperclips off the strong magnet, hold it up and ask the class if they think this paper clip will pick up another one all by itself. To make the point even clearer, take one of the paperclips from the last experiment off the desk and try to pick up another one from the desk all by itself … see, nothing happens.

    After they decide, lay the same paperclip flat on the strong magnet and rub it back and forth against the magnet at least 30 times. Now try to pick up other paperclips. It works! Use a paperclip that was on the strong magnet for a couple of days to pick up another. It works too! They should be surprised and will wonder what just happened … now you’ve got them!

    Tell them to cover their ears, put one of the magnetized paperclips on the table (or floor if you prefer) and strike it sharply with a hammer. Now try to pick up another paperclip that was not on the strong magnet with it. It doesn’t work any more. The same paperclip will no longer pick up any others!

    What are Your Observations?

    For the teacher – individual grains in the paperclip have magnetic fields all their own. The longer they are placed in a stronger magnetic field, or are “cold worked” in a magnetic field, the more likely their fields are to align, or point, in the same direction. The final result is that most of the individual field strengths add together and that paperclip’s overall magnetic field is now strong enough to pickup another paperclip. In other words, the first paperclip has become magnetized. When you hit the paperclip with a hammer (or heat it up too much if you have time to try that as well), the temporary alignment that was forced by the stronger magnet is destroyed and the individual magnetic fields start canceling each other out again. In other words, it looses its ability to pick up paperclips.

    For the students – we can turn a paperclip into a magnet by having it touch a strong magnet for a long time, or by rubbing it against a strong magnet several times. Our second grade science project shows that it has become a magnet by using it to pick up other paperclips all by itself. (Let them try to pick up paperclips with the magnetized paperclips if you have time). It stays “magnetized” after the other magnet is removed because the metal that makes up the paperclip has tiny “magnets” in it that will all try to point in the same direction if you let it touch the big magnet long enough. But, if you hit it with a hammer, the tiny magnets are shaken back into pointing in different directions again. It is no longer magnetic and just returns to being just another paperclip again.

    Summarize by answering the original question: Can we make a magnet?

    … and if you don’t have magnets, these are some nice kits you can get:

     

    Now that you can build a magnet, why not build a compass too? http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-a-compass/

  • How to Make a Compass

    Post Image

    This second grade science project is designed as a follow-on to the make a magnet experiment above. We show how to make a compass out of common everyday items, and continue introducing young students to the concept of magnetism.

    Materials

    Paperclips
    Strong Bar magnet
    Compass
    Small block of Styrofoam
    Small cork, cut so it will float with the flat side up
    Plastic or glass bowl large enough to hold the Styrofoam
    About a pint of water

    Preparation

    The only preparation needed for this second grade science project is to collect the materials in advance.

    Project Day
    Using a magnet as a compass

    Gather everybody around the table you will use for the demo. Tell them in this second grade science project, we will see if it is possible to make a compass.

    (If you have not done a compass experiment yet, now might be a good time to take the compass out and show them how it works. A very basic project is available at What a compass does if needed.)

    When ready, put just enough water in the bowl so that the Styrofoam will float without hitting the bottom of the container. Balance the bar magnet on top of the Styrofoam and watch what happens!

    The “N” part of the magnet will point North. Get the actual compass out. Keep it well away from the magnet or the compass won’t point in the right direction … and show the students what the compass says is North.

    Now carefully pick up the bowl of water and try to move around so that the “N” part of the floating magnet points in a different direction. Be sure to let the students see that no matter what direction you turn, the magnet will point North. And … that is precisely the point. We just made a compass out of an old magnet, a bucket of water and some old left-over piece of styrofoam! (Kinda like what MacGyver would do?).
    Magnetizing a paperclip

    Now take one of the smaller paperclips and unfold it so you have one end with a hook and the rest as a straight piece of wire. Rub the end of the paperclip (without the hook) against the magnet back and forth at least 30 times. Rubbing only about ½” on the end of the paperclip should do just fine. Make sure you magnetized it by trying to pick up another paperclip. Rub it on the magnet again if it appears to be too weak.

    Making a paperclip compass

    When the wire is magnetized, continue on with this second grade science project by carefully balancing it on the flat cork, then float the whole works in the bowl of water.

    It will be slower this time because the magnet is not as strong, but you should see the straight end of the paperclip heading toward North.

    What just happened?

    For the teacher – The final result for this second grade science project is that both the magnet and the magnetized paperclip try to align their magnetic fields with the earth’s, but the force of friction on the table top acts like glue to keep them from moving. However, when we float these on water, they are able to move freely. When they do that, they point North. If they always point North, we have a compass!

    For the students – A magnet “wants” to point North all the time. When we float it on the water, (hang it by a thread, balance it on a pin point, etc), it is free to move like it wants to. When that happens it points North. When it does that all the time, we have a compass.

    Summarize by answering the original question: Shouldn’t we be able to make a compass ourselves?

    If you need magnets, these kits can help:

     

    With an attraction to magnets and compasses, build both with this project:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/make-a-magnet-and-compass/

  • What a Compass Does – Compass Needle Deflection

    Post Image

    Kindergarten science projects? I know it’s early, but I also realize kindergarten is a wonderful age of discovery – not so much on the why of it, but the “wow” of it all. Remember?

    If not, all that is needed is to watch your preschool age son, grandson, daughter or granddaughter for about 5 minutes (or the ones next door if you don’t have any yet). Youngsters get excited about learning new things. And it is refreshing. Just look through their eyes and be young again …

    I know we can’t get too detailed in kindergarten science projects with how or why things work, but we can sure wet their appetite to want to know more. If we can just keep them excited about learning new things … who knows where that will lead?

    Here are a few kindergarten science projects to help do just that. Have fun!

    What Does A Compass Really Do?

    Just what is it that a compass does? Will it always point north? Can we convince it to do otherwise? If so, how … and why would we be able to do that?

    These are some of the questions this kindergarten science project is designed to answer. It is specifically designed for very young students, but as you will see from other experiments on this site, it doesn’t take much to expand the topic to about any grade level desired.

    Enjoy! (and please be sure to let me know how they did!)

    Compass Kindergarten Science Project

    Objective

    To introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    Compass
    Magnetite (if available)
    Bar Magnet

    Preparation

    No advance prep, other than gathering the materials is needed for this kindergarten science project.

    Project day

    Ask the students if anybody knows where “North” is. Let the discussion happen, and then ask how can we find out if we do not know. If nobody knows, ask if anybody can tell you what a compass is, and if it could it be used to tell us where north is. Again, let the comments come freely, and then have them each look at a compass to see where the needle points in their classroom. If you have enough for a couple groups, ask each group to point to where their compass needle is pointing. They will be able to see that everybody is pointing in the same direction … and that must be where North is.

    Then be sure to explain that the way to use the compass is to turn it until the “N” is where the needle is pointing. Yes, that is North, but now the compass will also show you where East, West and South are as well. This can be a fun game to play by itself, where each group has a compass, a direction east, west, north or south is called out and each group takes two steps in the direction called. Many versions of the same game can be played (or kindergarten science project here), but all are fun ways to learn directions and just a little about magnetism.

    Now for the second question … do they always point north? This time, have the students identify where north is again with their compass. Place the compass on a desk or table and turn it again so that the letter “N” is in the direction of the needle. Have one person slowly move the magnetite or bar magnet toward the compass and ask them what happened? If you are using a bar magnet, tell them the red end usually has an “N” stamped on it and ask if anyone can tell you why. Yes, it is marked “N” because it is the “North” end of the magnet. A compass will point to the north end of the magnet if they are close enough together. That must mean that the earth is really just one big magnet, and the compass is pointing to the north “pole” as well. Since it does, we can use it to help us find the direction we need to go if we are lost or trying to follow a map.

    If the class is especially perceptive, you can increase the depth of this kindergarten science project by turning the bar magnet around so that the “S” points toward the compass. Watch the needle spin away from it. Tell the students the arrow is trying to point away from the magnet because we are showing it the south pole side. If we pretended it was the earth’s south pole, then the arrow would still be pointing to the north pole. Make a big circular loop with your arm from the “S” on the magnet, as if you are drawing a circle around the earth and end up at the “N” to show the needle really does point “North”.

    Summarize by answering the two questions: What does a compass really do; and, will it always point to the direction north?

    For more fun projects with magnets, these kits can help:

     

    Want to try making a compass? Try this project:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-a-compass/

     


     

    Magnet

    What does a Magnet Attract?

    The previous project shows that a compass needle can be moved by a magnet (table top version or the earth itself), but what else will a magnet attract? Will it pick up paper clips? A piece of paper? How about chalk?

    I certainly agree, it is too early to discuss concepts like electron spin, as is done on the magnet science projects page, but it isn’t too early to help them understand not all things are the same, and that we just might have to try an experiment to be certain what will happen. That is the focus of this kindergarten science project.

    Here we go …

    Have Fun!
    Magnet Kindergarten Science Project
    Objective

    To introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    paperclips
    small washers (as in nuts, bolts and “washers”),
    small pieces of paper, chalk, popsicle sticks, pieces of a plastic cup, etc.
    Bar Magnets, one for each group.

    Preparation

    No advance preparation, other than gathering the materials is needed for this kindergarten science project.

    Project day

    Ask if anyone has used a magnet before. Let the students give as many examples as they can, but if the discussion goes a bit slowly, help them start by asking if anybody has a refrigerator with magnets on it. They might be letters or numbers or just a small square mom or dad uses to hold up a piece of paper, a picture you colored or maybe even a photograph of grandma all by itself (at least without the need for glue or bubble gum!). Then ask if they would like to see what magnets can do right now!

    If you have some additional adult help, break the class up into as many small groups as you have magnets and samples for. While the class is getting into their groups, place different test samples on several desks or tables around the room.

    At this point, please let them know that anytime we do a kindergarten science project, we need to set some lab rules. For today’s project, only one person can touch the magnet at a time, and for now, the only thing they can use to pick up the items on the desks or tables with is the magnet. Let them know we cannot use our hands because we are trying to see what will stick to the magnet all by itself.

    When they get to their stations, ask them to look toward the blackboard, and one item at a time, write down the item on the blackboard, tell them what it is and ask them to raise their hand if they think the magnet will pick that item up. If most say yes, put a check by it. If most say no, put an X by that item. Now the fun starts.

    Hand out one magnet to a student in each group. Have each group gather around their desk or table and ask the person holding the magnet to try to get the paper, or washer, etc., to stick to the magnet. In fact, let’s see if anyone can pick the item up off the desk by just touching it with the magnet. No fair using hands!

    It is important to let every student hold the magnet at least once, but if you have limited time, it is not necessary for every student to try picking up every item on every desk. When at least two or three have had a chance to try the magnet at one station, have them move (I’ll say orderly with a smile here) to the next station.

    When each group has tried each station, have them put their magnets on the table and look toward the blackboard again. Starting from the top of the list, tell them what it is and ask by a show of hands if it will stick to the magnet all by itself? I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that not all hands will go up or down when they should. But that is ok. In fact it is most welcome.

    When the answers are not correct (or you suspect most are just guessing), have the group with that item on their table try to pick it up with the magnet while everyone else watches. That will help tie things together. They don’t even have to know they are learning to hypothesize, test and analyze, but they’ll get it just the same … and have fun doing it at the same time.

    Summarize by letting them know they guessed at what they thought would stick to the magnet, and then did an experiment to see if they guessed right. After we did the experiment, we found that only metal things can be picked up by a magnet, not paper or plastic or chalk … etc.

     

    Want to try making a magnet? Here is a project to try: http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-a-magnet/

    And for a whole series of other age 2-7 early leaning curriculum, see …


  • Make a Magnet and Compass

    A New Look At The World Around Us!
    Magnet

    Second Grade Science Projects Series

    One of the earlier projects discusses what a compass does, but if the magnet-science-projects page is right, shouldn’t we be able to make a compass ourselves? Well, the answer is yes – if only we could make a magnet. So we’ll focus on the magnet in this project and save the compass for the next one. But this is still one of the second grade science projects, so we’ll stick to using paperclips here, and the teacher can demonstrate using a magnetized needle for making the compass itself later.

    How to Make a Magnet?

    Objective

    This second grade science project is designed to introduce young students to the concept of magnetism by using everyday items they are most likely already familiar with.

    Materials

    Paperclips
    Magnetite (if available)
    Several general-purpose bar magnets of different strengths
    One very strong Bar or U magnet
    One small hammer
    Compass

    Preparation

    This second grade science project requires one small step in advance. One or two days before the class project, put at least one paperclip for each project group you will have on the north side of the very strong magnet and leave them there.

    Project Day

    Ask the students if any have used a magnet before. Let them give as many examples as they can, then ask if any of them ever made a magnet. If yes, great! Ask if they remember how. Chances are that nobody will raise their hand, so ask how many would like to learn how to make a magnet to get the fun started. If you have enough students for a couple groups, give each group a set of bar magnets and about a dozen paper clips. Please be sure to set some second grade science project lab rules … like the paperclips stay on the table until it is time to do the experiment, and then, only one person touches them at a time, etc.

    Explain that magnets have a north and south pole, just like the earth. If this lab followed a compass project similar to this one, great … break out a compass from last time to remind them that it always points north.

    If not, give them a few minutes with the compass. Have them get in a circle, pass the compass around and have everyone who holds it point in the same direction as the compass needle. When the last student has had a chance to hold it, have everyone look to see where everybody else is pointing. That is north. Make sure to tell them it does not matter which way you turn the compass; it will point north (at least in this experiment!!). And that is because it has a magnet in it.

    To shift the focus of this second grade science project back to the magnet itself, ask them to look at the bar magnets. Show them that one end has an “N” on it and the other an “S”. That stands for north and south. The “N” is marked N, because a compass needle will point toward it if it gets close enough. We could also use it to make a compass if it were small enough.

    Give two or three students in each group a different magnet. Ask each to try and pick up just one paperclip with it. Then see if any can pick up another by only touching the end of the paperclips together. See who can make the longest chain of paperclips and make sure they understand the reason one magnet can pick up more than another is because it is stronger. Also let them know that the magnet has turned the paperclip it just picked up into a magnet as well. The next paperclip it picks up has also become a magnet, but weaker. Sooner or later one of the next paperclip “magnets” in our second grade science project will not be strong enough to pickup any more.

    Give the students some time to play with the magnets and paperclips. Make sure everyone gets a chance to pick up a few paperclips. Then, take one of the magnets, pick up as many paperclips in a chain as you can while the students all watch and be sure to tell the whole group again what they should remember about the experiment (same as in the paragraph above).

    While they are all watching, raise the paperclip chain up so all can see. Ask them what they think will happen if the magnet is taken away. (Part of the purpose for any second grade science project is to make a prediction, then test to see if it holds true).

    Hold the paperclip that touches the magnet with one hand and remove the magnet from it with the other. Does the chain of paperclips stay attached? No – they will all fall off. Tell them this is because each of the paperclips were only temporary magnets. They were only “magnetized” when they were touching a real (or permanent magnet).

    Bring out the strong magnet you put aside for a few days and show the students in this second grade science project the paperclips it has been holding. Take the paperclips off the magnet, and one-by-one, connect them together, just like before to show that this magnet will pick up a chain of several paperclips too. But this time things will be a bit different. Take one of the paperclips off the strong magnet, hold it up and ask the class if they think this paper clip will pick up another one all by itself. To make the point even clearer, take one of the paperclips from the last experiment off the desk and try to pick up another one from the desk all by itself … see, nothing happens.

    After they decide, lay the same paperclip flat on the strong magnet and rub it back and forth against the magnet at least 30 times. Now try to pick up other paperclips. It works! Use a paperclip that was on the strong magnet for a couple of days to pick up another. It works too! They should be surprised and will wonder what just happened … now you’ve got them!

    Tell them to cover their ears, put one of the magnetized paperclips on the table (or floor if you prefer) and strike it sharply with a hammer. Now try to pick up another paperclip that was not on the strong magnet with it. It doesn’t work any more. The same paperclip will no longer pick up any others!

    What just happened?

    For the teacher – individual grains in the paperclip have magnetic fields all their own. The longer they are placed in a stronger magnetic field, or are “cold worked” in a magnetic field, the more likely their fields are to align, or point, in the same direction. The final result is that most of the individual field strengths add together and that paperclip’s overall magnetic field is now strong enough to pickup another paperclip. In other words, the first paperclip has become magnetized. When you hit the paperclip with a hammer (or heat it up too much if you have time to try that as well), the temporary alignment that was forced by the stronger magnet is destroyed and the individual magnetic fields start canceling each other out again. In other words, it looses its ability to pick up paperclips.

    For the students – we can turn a paperclip into a magnet by having it touch a strong magnet for a long time, or by rubbing it against a strong magnet several times. Our second grade science project shows that it has become a magnet by using it to pick up other paperclips all by itself. (Let them try to pick up paperclips with the magnetized paperclips if you have time). It stays “magnetized” after the other magnet is removed because the metal that makes up the paperclip has tiny “magnets” in it that will all try to point in the same direction if you let it touch the big magnet long enough. But, if you hit it with a hammer, the tiny magnets are shaken back into pointing in different directions again. It is no longer magnetic and just returns to being just another paperclip again.

    Summarize by answering the original question: Can we make a magnet?
    How to Make a Compass?

    Objective

    This second grade science project is designed as a follow-on to the make a magnet experiment above. We show how to make a compass out of common everyday items, and continue introducing young students to the concept of magnetism.

    Materials

    Paperclips
    Strong Bar magnet
    Compass
    Small block of Styrofoam
    Small cork, cut so it will float with the flat side up
    Plastic or glass bowl large enough to hold the Styrofoam
    About a pint of water

    Preparation

    The only preparation needed for this second grade science project is to collect the materials in advance.

    Project Day

    Using a magnet as a compass

    Gather everybody around the table you will use for the demo. Tell them in this second grade science project, we will see if it is possible to make a compass.

    (If you have not done a compass experiment yet, now might be a good time to take the compass out and show them how it works. A very basic project is available at What a compass does if needed.)

    When ready, put just enough water in the bowl so that the Styrofoam will float without hitting the bottom of the container. Balance the bar magnet on top of the Styrofoam and watch what happens!

    The “N” part of the magnet will point North. Get the actual compass out. Keep it well away from the magnet or the compass won’t point in the right direction … and show the students what the compass says is North.

    Now carefully pick up the bowl of water and try to move around so that the “N” part of the floating magnet points in a different direction. Be sure to let the students see that no matter what direction you turn, the magnet will point North. And … that is precisely the point. We just made a compass out of an old magnet, a bucket of water and some old left-over piece of styrofoam! (Kinda like what MacGyver would do?).

    Magnetizing a paperclip

    Now take one of the smaller paperclips and unfold it so you have one end with a hook and the rest as a straight piece of wire. Rub the end of the paperclip (without the hook) against the magnet back and forth at least 30 times. Rubbing only about ½” on the end of the paperclip should do just fine. Make sure you magnetized it by trying to pick up another paperclip. Rub it on the magnet again if it appears to be too weak.

    Making a paperclip compass

    When the wire is magnetized, continue on with this second grade science project by carefully balancing it on the flat cork, then float the whole works in the bowl of water.

    It will be slower this time because the magnet is not as strong, but you should see the straight end of the paperclip heading toward North.

    What just happened?

    For the teacher – The final result for this second grade science project is that both the magnet and the magnetized paperclip try to align their magnetic fields with the earth’s, but the force of friction on the table top acts like glue to keep them from moving. However, when we float these on water, they are able to move freely. When they do that, they point North. If they always point North, we have a compass!

    For the students – A magnet “wants” to point North all the time. When we float it on the water, (hang it by a thread, balance it on a pin point, etc), it is free to move like it wants to. When that happens it points North. When it does that all the time, we have a compass.

    Summarize by answering the original question: Shouldn’t we be able to make a compass ourselves?

     

    Ready to take it another step? Try this project:  http://how-things-work-science-projects.com/how-to-make-an-electromagnet/