Making Magnetic Slime: In order to make the slime, you will need to follow the directions and will also need a neodymium magnet for each student.
Making the Flying Paper Clip: You will need to tie a paper clip to a string. Then tape the string to the base of a test-tube stand. Place a bar magnet onto a test-tube clamp (a steel clamp) and then fasten the clamp to the rod on the test tube stand. Wrap the clamp and magnet up in paper to conceal that a magnet is attached. Place magnet high enough up so that the magnet's force will pull the paper clip toward it but not touch the magnet. It will appear to be floating.
The students gather on the carpet for the Engage portion of the lesson. They are then able to spread out around the room for the explore portion of the lesson. The group gathers back on the carpet for a science circle discussion (explain section). The lessons end with the students explaining what they learned from their explorations.
This lesson is meant to engage the students natural curiosity and their ability to make predictions about their exploration. I want to gauge their initial thinking about why the magnetic slime is attracted to the magnet and why a paper clip appears to be suspended in mid air.
NOTE: Our district is transitioning to the NGSS. Although we are implementing some of the units this year, I am still required to teach units that have now been assigned to other grade levels. This unit is one of those units that has been affected by the shifts in grade levels. I continue to teach this unit because it meets the following Vermont State Standards:
S1-2:2 Students demonstrate their understanding of predicting and hypothesizing
S1-2:3 Students demonstrate their understanding of experimental design
S1-2:4 Students demonstrate their ability to conduct experiments
S1-2:6 Students demonstrate their ability to analyze data
I want students to gain a sound and working understanding of the scientific method. Although this unit will bring in magnetic concepts, the "major focus" continues to be developing learners to think like scientists through experimental learning.
I start the class by gathering everyone onto the carpet and ask them to face the Smart Board.
"We are starting a new science unit today, I am not going to tell you what the focus of our unit is until after today's class. I want to start by showing you a video on the Smart board. The video that you are going to watch is of a boy who claims he can do magic with science. I want you to watch the video and then we will talk about what we are going to do today."
I am choosing this video for several reasons. The activities that the students are going to do today may appear to be magical. I want them to start thinking about magic but then to critique it at the same time and find out what the real cause may be (the fact that it isn't magic).
I am also choosing this video because it is of an autistic boy that loves science. My classroom has a student with Autism and the students help make the child's experience one of inclusion. It is good for them to see the student in this video leading the experiment.
"Although it may have looked like the boy was performing a magic trick, he really wasn't. There were scientific reasons why the colors started moving all around."
Note: The real reason this happens is the dish soap does not mix with the milk. Instead it floats on top and spreads over the surface. As it spreads, it grabs thefood colouring. Soap is a "degreaser" so the molecules in it are attacking the fat in the milk, causing motion which creates the swirling of the colours.
Before you start this section, you will want to prepare the magnetic slime and floating paper clip display(s) before hand (see the setting the stage section of this lesson for details). I choose to make two floating paper clip displays to allow more kids to observe at one time.
"I want you to open your science notebooks to the next available page. Please use the anchor chart to set up today's entry. If you need to know the date, please check the calendar. Today's focus is 'science magic.'
You are going explore two different items today. The first will be the floating paperclip displays that are on the kidney bean table. If you and your partner choose to go over to that table, you should bring your science notebooks with you. Your job will be to draw what you observe and then explain why you think the paper clip is suspended in air in your notebook.
If you are not observing the paper clip, you will work with your partner and explore a cup of slime. You and your partner will each be given a cup of slime. You will each be given a silver disc too. You can pour the slime onto the table and use the disc to see if you can make the slime move with the disc. You will again be asked to record your findings in your notebooks."
I am intentionally choosing not to tell the students that the disc is a magnet. I will see if it is discovered during our science circle conversation.
As students are working, I will circulate to see what ideas are being generated. I will note if anyone realizes that magnets are what is causing the paper clips to be suspended and that the magnetic disc are causing the magnetic slime to move too. I have captured two of the check-ins on video (What's Going on With the Slime and Why is Paper Clip Floating).
"I would like each of you to gather on the carpet for a science circle. I need you to put all of the materials away and bring your notebooks with you to the carpet."
"I want to have people share what they discovered today. I want you to explain why you think the things you observed were happening."
My goal is to be more of a moderator during this conversation and to keep the conversation flowing. I have been working with my students on the concept and they have the ability to feed off of each others' ideas. If the idea that about magnets and attraction are not brought up, I will discuss this with the students. I have included a snip-it of the conversation (Discussing Why Slime and Paper Clip).
"We have just discussed the idea that each exploration had a magnet and metal that the magnet was attracted to. I want you to choose one of the explorations, draw it and then label where you think the magnet and the metal that it is attracted to is. When you are done, I want you to bring your notebook to me and describe what you drew."
I am asking the students to do this because I want to see if they can connect their learning from the class discussion to what they observed in their explorations.
During this unit, I am introducing a Science Journal Scoring Rubric for each science notebook entry. The rubric will allow the students to grade themselves and for me to grade their entry as well.
If time allows I will introduce this at the end of today's lesson. If not, I will do it during a different time later in the day.