Sunday, February 28, 2010

Playing With Magnets - Physics for Kids

Okay, this particular Science Sunday post started out as a chemistry post, entitled "Finding Elements Around The House - Iron In Your Food", or something like that - I actually didn't even make it as far as the title.

While the kids were getting ready for bed last night, with their heads and tummies full from our chemistry "lesson", I decided to test out the experiment I had planned for today. It's a Vickie Cobb experiment, from one of her science books for kids, I don't actually remember which one. But, it was a Vickie Cobb experiment we tried, and failed at, last week, so I decided I better try this one out ahead of time.

According to Cobb, you can remove tiny bits of iron, from cream of wheat cereal, with a magnet. First, you put the cereal into a baggie, and crush it, finer than normal Cream of Wheat. Then, you place the magnet in the bag. Once you remove the magnet, there should be tiny black specks on it, which are actually iron, removed from the cereal. There won't be many, and they'll be hard to see, but they can be brushed off onto a white sheet of paper, and observed.

Naturally, we didn't have any Cream of Wheat. So, I decided to give Rice Krispies a try. But, sadly, no mater how finely I crushed the cereal, I couldn't pull any iron out - even with a rare earth magnet. Of course, while I had the rare earth magnet out, I had to play with it, sticking it to everything in site, testing my pots and pans, building stacks of nuts and washers.

It was about that time, that I was spotted by my seven year old. I'm sure you can imagine where things went from there.

He had a great time playing with the magnet, though I switched him over to one that was easier to handle. Those rare earth magnets are scary strong - I pinched my finger pretty good between two of them, when they attracted each other, while I was putting mine away. The magnet I left my son with was just as strong, but encased in a plastic handle.

He tested it against the magnets from our fridge.

He discovered he could turn a scissor blade into a magnet.

I tried to show him that the magnets would repel each other, and started to tell him about magnetic poles, but he informed me he just wanted to play. I couldn't really blame him, as he was still digesting a pretty in depth chemistry lesson.

It wasn't long before he was mobbed by the other children, and more magnets had to be brought out.

I snuck off in search of our copy of Mickey's Magnet by Franklyn M. Branley. It's an adorable story, about a little boy, who spills his mother's straight pins, and is given a magnet to pick them up. It's also a sneaky way to turn a bed time story into a physics lesson. Branley, who died in 2002, was the author of over 150 science books for children. I'm not wild about all of them, but this one is terrific.

Unfortunately, the last time I came across the book, I put it aside in a special place, so I'd have it easily accessible if we happened into a quick lesson on magnetism. In other words, I may never find it again. So for one night the kids were off the hook - but they were experimenting and learning quite a bit on their own.

Clearly, I'll be spending my Sunday afternoon pulling the house appart. But, just in case, I have Branley's book on hold now at the library too, and I located a companion lesson online, aimed at grades K-2.

For more children's science fun, check out this week's Science Sunday link up, at a Mommy's Adventures.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Valerie @ Inner Child Fun said...

I love how he just took that magnet and ran with it (and obviously learned a thing or two about magnets along the way)! I've never heard of the Cream of Wheat experiment, but it really intrigues me... will have to give it a go, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hahahahaha! So I'm not the only one who puts things in a 'special place' only to never find them again. I completely relate to that statement. I get so frustrated with myself sometimes. Those rare earth magnets are dangerous, I'm kind of scared of mine, but it is so much fun! Thanks for the neat book tip. I'll have to be on the lookout for it.

Sarah @ FullTimeMinistry

Ticia said...

To answer your question, no we did not make ice cream snow. It was at most two inches across the whole day, and a lot of it melted very quickly. I suppose if I'd thought ahead and put a bowl out......
You know, I've got a magnet kit for the kids that I have yet to get out for them to play with. They play with my magnetic pin cushion all the time.

Julie said...

The times C has played with magnets, he's really enjoyed it. I'll have to pull some out again and try some different things with them. It's always good when you find projects they really enjoy!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

My husband is always worried about getting the magnets to little hands around all our electronics. I saw some pretty neat "design the face" projects which involve metal scrap and magnet wand. Well, one of those days. By the way, I just recently pulled the house apart in search of one of the books I wanted to use, and I still didn't find it :)

Unknown said...

You are the master of flexibility learning- love it!