Challenge the children to create a work of art using magnets and metal.
Early Learning Goal links
- Mathematics ELG: Numerical Patterns
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World –
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Magnet, magnetic, not magnetic, pull, stick, attract, push, away, repel, material, metal
What to do
Put out the magnetic objects and the magnets. Tell the children that they are going to be magnet engineers and are going to be creative. You could show the children the magnet art provocation and the magnet engineer poster.
Challenge the children to make a model or art work using the magnets and magnetic materials.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- What are you making?
- Why did you choose those pieces?
- How is it sticking together?
- Which shapes are attaching to the magnets the best?
- Which pieces attach together better? Bigger or smaller?
- How tall can you make your model?
- How wide can you make your model?
- Do all of the pieces need to be touching the magnet?
- How do you think that works?
- What else do you think you could use?
- Which other objects do you know that are magnetic?
Other things to try
You could use magnet blocks or construction materials and ask the same questions to extend learning.
Remember to refer to the children as magnet engineers and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been creative like a magnet engineer and used magnets and magnet materials to create an art work…”
The science of magnets
We have put together some useful information about the science of magnets to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
What are magnets?
A magnet is an object that produces an invisible area of magnetism all around it called magnetic field (the area around a magnet that has magnetic force). The magnets we use in school are permanent magnets. This means the magnetic field they produce is there all of the time and cannot be turned off. Magnets can only be made from magnetic metals. Magnets repel and attract other magnets, and attract magnetic substances.
Which materials are magnetic?
Only metals are magnetic, but not all metals! Iron, nickel and cobalt are the only pure metals that are magnetic and can be turned into a permanent magnet. Steel is an alloy of iron and so is magnet and can be made into a magnet. Every substance is made up of tiny units called atoms. Each atom has electrons, particles that carry electric charges. Electrons circle the nucleus (core) generating a electric current and causing each electron to become a magnet. In most substances, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, cancelling out their magnetism. In iron, cobalt, and nickel, most of the electrons spin in the same direction and are strongly magnetised. These substances can become magnets if they enter the magnetic field of an existing magnet.
What is a magnetism?
Magnetism is the force applied by magnets when they attract or repel each other. Magnetism is caused by the movement of electric charges. In a magnet, the north-seeking poles of the atoms in the magnet line up in the same direction. The force generated by the aligned atoms creates two poles in a magnet, a north and south pole. The magnetic force or charge in a magnet flows from the north pole to the south pole. This creates a magnetic field around a magnet. The magnetic fields created by magnets fill a space around them where magnet forces work to attract or repel magnetic materials.
In this activity, if a magnetic material was touching a magnet one end, it attracted magnetic materials at the other end. Why does this happen?
A strongly magnetic substance can become a magnet if it enters the magnetic field of an existing magnet. For example, when you touch a steel screw to a magnet, the north-seeking poles of the atoms in the iron making up the steel line up in the same direction. The force generated by the aligned atoms creates a magnetic field. The steel screw has become a magnet. This means that other magnetic materials will be attracted to it.