Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Magnet Detectives

Science Saturdays for 2013 started off with a bang! The weather brought us 70 degrees and partly cloudy, and it was a perfect morning for being outside and having some science fun!

Our lesson this month was on materials things are made out of. There are lots of materials on earth, but only a select few are attracted to magnets - those materials have iron in them (think steels). Many kids hypothesize that all metals stick to magnets. This is a good educated guess, but it's wrong (and it's ok to be wrong at this level of science understanding - that's how we learn).

I got the idea to bury things in the sandbox from J's preschool, where they bury paper/sequence in their school playground and the kids go find "treasures" (which we cannot throw away no matter how many times they fall on the floor and the Roomba threatens to vacuum them up).

The materials I buried:
  • Matchbox cars
  • Tin/jar lids (ie. Altoid boxes)
  • Sponges
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cheap Ikea baby silverware spoons
  • Milk caps
  • Candles
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Straws
  • Balloons
  • Marbles
  • Pennies
  • Bobby pins
  • Paper clips
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Army men
  • Rubber bands
  • Giant metal washers
  • Colored plastic chips with a metal band around them (they came in a magnet activity)
*note, I stayed away from anything sharp since burying nails in a public playground doesn't sit well with me as a mom.

As the kids dug up a treasure, they had to say what they thought it was made out of and whether or not it'll be attracted to a magnet. A good way to test would be to place the item on top of the magnet, then flip the magnet over. If the item sticks, it's attracted. If not, it's made up of a different material.

For those who were still interested in playing science after 15 minutes (seriously people, sometimes science day feels like a flash mob, but the adrenaline rush is awesome and the kids always have fun), I showed them that the magnet itself doesn't stick to cardboard, but the magnet has a field which can go through cardboard. I made up a dancing bug activity on the fly. It went over super well. All you need: a few pipe cleaners, a magnet, and a piece of cardboard. Place the magnet under the cardboard and watch your pipe cleaner bug move magically!

Big J (my husband), came up with the game, how many washers can your magnet hold. I also heard they were playing pass the washers with their magnetic wands as they ran around the playground.

One more game with magnets on playgrounds: hide the magnet. It's like hide-n-seek, only you're hiding the magnet (hopefully a larger, visible one) somewhere on the playground (preferably on a metal structure to narrow things down). Then the kids have to find it based on their knowledge of where they think it could be sticking.

Thanks for everyone who came to our fun Science Saturday. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to join us, shoot me an email using the link over to the left, and I'll add you to the email list for Science Saturdays. I try to hold them at least once a month and give at least a 5 day notice of events. They do depend on weather and our overall family's health (we love sharing, but not the flu).

**These are the magnetic wands we used: Learning Resources Magnetic Wands**

1 comment:

  1. I really love this activity - you buried a great range of materials!

    I run crafts for preschoolers, and those feel like a flash mob sometimes, too.