Location, Location, Location

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Students will be able to use different tools to locate a magnetic field.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students will use what they know about magnets to gain a deeper understanding of magnetic fields. They will also need to make decisions about investigations and precise tools.


5 minutes

This lesson will prompt students to use all they know about magnetism in order to detect a magnetic field.  So, our question will be just that: "How can we detect magnetic fields?" 

When the students gather, I will ask them to discuss, with their shoulder partner, today's question. As they do, I will listen in for their ideas and their possible confusions. This information will help me begin our conversations in the mini lesson. 

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

I will show students a tray, containing magnets, iron filings in a baggie, a compass, and several steel and iron objects. Also, there will be several non-magnetic objects, such as pencils, straws, and popsicle sticks, on the tray. 

I will also have a box with 1-2 magnets taped inside.  Each box will have different configurations of magnet placements. 

I will then challenge the students.  I will explain to them that there are magnetic fields inside of the box. They will meet to find and record where they think the magnet fields are based on investigations. They will also be prompted to write down their testing ideas on a graphic organizer

Active Engagement

20 minutes

Following the mini lesson, I will set student groups off to investigate.  I have prepared 8 different boxes with magnets taped in various places inside.  If you don't have boxes, plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, would work.  Make sure to number each and tape at least two magnets in different configurations. Some can be right next to each other, far away, or even stacked.

In this video, this pair of scientists are working to explain what evidence they are looking for. When your students speak to you, listen for vocabulary usage, development of theory, and testing design ideas. 

I was really interested in listening to these boys, as they were actually discussing comparing results from two tools in order to cross-check their work!  Also, listen to the boy describe how he thinks the compass helps him with his investigation. There is always a lot of learning that happens from trial and error testing. 

As these students began to explain "something interesting" they found, they also began to work through why one magnet would have a larger field than another. They are on their way to understanding magnetism in more depth than just, "it attracts, or it doesn't".


5 minutes

As a closing, I will call all of the students back to the community area and ask groups to report where they found magnetic fields in each box. If there are discrepancies in the reports, I will have two volunteers re-test the box using different tools. 

I will also collect and review the student's graphic organizers.