Magnets- Attraction and Repulsion

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Students will be able to safely use and observe the properties of strong magnets.

Big Idea

Science safety enables students to engage in more interesting explorations.


8 minutes

I review the safety instructions for the students and then explain that today I will be working with them in small groups at a table so that I can supervise them as they use stronger magnets.  Today I expect them to continue to refine their observations about the magnets.  It is mandatory that they wear safety goggles.  Most students follow the rules but I cannot take the risk that someone will get carried away with excitement and “throw” too many of these powerful magnets together at once, in which case they can move with surprising speed and force.  I also require the students who wish to hold some of the stronger magnets to wear thick work gloves.  It makes it harder for them to manipulate the magnets but prevents tiny fingers from being pinched.  I pinched myself trying to pry apart several magnets and it bled.  I would evaluate the use of the super strong magnets on a student-by-student or class-by-class basis.  It worked for me this year but there is no guarantee that I will use them with next year’s class.  Safety must come first!




Engage and Explore- Neodymium Magnets

20 minutes

These are the questions I post for students to be thinking about as we work with the stronger magnets:

  • Where are the  poles located on the different  magnets?  Can you always tell?  Why or why not?
  • What might be the intent of the magnet designers if placing some magnets’ poles on the ends and others on the top or bottom?
  • Describe an experience you had using the force of repulsion and some of the magnets.
  • Describe an experience you had using the force of attraction and some of the magnets.
  • What was an idea you had that you tested out?  What was the result?  
  • What is something that surprises you about how these magnets interact with each other?

Note: I purchased all these materials on my own.  Here are some ideas for purchasing magnets.  

Here is an example of how I structure their “work” with these magnets.



Explain and Question

20 minutes

In this part of the lesson, the students who have already been at the Magnet Table now write and diagram some of their observations.  Additionally, I ask them to list any questions they have about what they observed.  Finally, I remind them that our end goal is to think of a simple problem that we could solve using magnetic force.

The students were having difficulty writing about their observations with sufficient clarity so next time I teach this lesson I will provide them with these sentence stems to prompt more accurate reflection.