Electromagnets (3/3)

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Students will be able to build an electromagnet using knowledge gained during research.

Big Idea

Many times, science is presented as a "follow these steps and see what happens" learning opportunity. Today, students will use their prior knowledge to make meaning on their own and journey through an investigation.


5 minutes

To begin the lesson today, I gather the students as show them the video clip below, which depicts an electromagnet at work, in a real life situation. The beginning of the video looks like a giant magnet lifting tire rims. The second half shows the metal falling from the magnet. Due to the research the students have done in lessons 1 and 2, they understand that this is because there is an electromagnet at work.  

I ask them to discuss with their shoulder partner how they think they might build their own electromagnet and what materials they would need to use.

Mini Lesson

5 minutes

After the students discuss their ideas with their peers, I show them the science counter. On it I have wires, long and short, batteries, rivets, light bulbs, motors, circuit boards, small metal washers, switches, magnets, tin foil, and string. 

I explain that each team should discuss how they will build an electromagnet and what supplies they will "check out" of the science counter for their work trays.

I then give each team 5 minutes to discuss and plan before "checking out" their materials. 

Active Engagement

15 minutes

While students create their models, I circulate, and help if asked, question and prompt thinking. Many of the students did not have electromagnets that worked at the beginning, but I was very impressed that no one had string, foil, or magnets on their tray!

In this clip, the students had a model that worked, but was hard to use. However, they could explain how they built it and showed me the success of the model. My next move with them was to rebuild it so that they could move the rivet around freely and move the washers from one end of the tray to the other. They were still working on it when today's session ended!

In this clip, the same group was working on my challenge. Their first try was to just pick up part of the circuit and move it!  Finally I made a suggestion, which went unnoticed. I also challenged them to pick up the washers and have them placed into a receptacle without using their hands. After all, electromagnets can be turned on and off. 


5 minutes

In order to close, review, and pre teach for tomorrow, I asked the students to discuss, as a class what was successful and challenging. 

I then asked the group to share with, each other, what they might try tomorrow and how they revised during today's session. 

This type of review and discussion is simple, yet very effective, as it causes the students to remain in the "invention" phase of the science. They need to evaluate their techniques, outcomes, critique other's success, and learn from failures. Sounds like Edison and Einstein to me!