Monday, December 3, 2012

How to make a temporary magnet

I love teaching science!  This week my third graders are working on magnetic fields and temporary magnets.  Temporary magnets make a low budget and easy experiment that just amazes the students.
First, I put the following vocabulary words on the board so that we can reference them throughout the lesson.  I like to be able to point to the word as I'm saying it to catch those visual learners.  :)
temporary magnet, permanent magnet, stroke, pole, nail, magnetize
Second, I show them this picture:

We discuss how the magnetic domains would turn when they get heated and cooled (linking it to their prior knowledge).
I extend this to discuss how we want the poles to be lined up in an orderly fashion, like those inside a magnet.
Third, I show them a nail and we discuss how it is attracted to a magnet, but it is not a magnet.

On to the experiment!
I model first and have them do it on their own at the end.
Hold the nail in one hand and pull the magnet down it with the other.
Repeat this several times.

The more strokes you make, the better the poles will align and the better the temporary magnet will work.
I click the stapler a few times to get some used staples out, and then I place my nail on the staples and TADAAA!

It's easy to get a clump of them to attract.  I challenge my students to try to link the staples end to end and see how strong they've made their temporary magnet.  In a few short seconds, they realize that more strokes will make their magnet stronger and a they will be busy stroking for awhile!

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