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Magnetism

magnet with nuts , bolts and washers stuck to it

What will you attract?

You know we love talking about magnets. But it’s quite a polarising topic…

There are so many things that we don’t know. If we started to list the things we don’t understand it would take a loooong time. There’s that comedy skit where a man goes back in time and thinks, “Great, I’ll impress everyone…”

“In the future,” he says, “we have fridges that keep food cold, toasters that make bread hot and air conditioners that make the air both hot and cold.”

“WOW, how do they work?” is the response.

“Well, you just plug it into the wall and press a button. We have cars, trains and airplanes that transport us round the world.”

“Wow, how do they work?” his audience wants to know.

“Well, you just put the key in and press a button.”

So, do you need to understand the science behind magnets to enjoy playing with them? I don’t think so. Isn’t it enough to work out the properties of magnets? Start to develop the language connected to the topic. Investigate the phenomenon with the children and enjoy the wonders of magnetism.
Compass sitting on map
MRI machine

Some ideas you may find attractive

Use a magnet to test what substances are magnetic or non-magnetic. Any substance which is attracted by a magnet is called a magnetic substance. Introduce some keywords, by talking about the magnets’ poles and describing how they attract or repel each other while playing with various magnets and seeing what ‘works’.

Why not collect things that are magnetic and the things that aren’t? You could make a display – a museum of magnetism. Are all metals magnetic substances? Actually, all magnetic substances are metals but not all metals are magnetic. Try aluminium or gold. In fact, most of the magnetic substances you find will be iron or contain iron. That’s another good question to investigate with children – What makes a metal a metal?

Have you ever used magnets with the children in your care?
Let us know in the comments below.

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

Hayley has an insatiable thirst for learning – about everything! Her sheer joy of discovery and passion for professional development makes her the perfect person to run the Little Scientist’s House Certification program.

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