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Activity

Magnet pendulum

Summary: 
A magnet on a string swings randomly and seemingly endlessly as it is attracted and repelled by other magnets. Can be used as a free experimentation activity.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
Physics: Energy forms, Conservation of Energy (1, 3, 4, 5)
Materials: 
  • string to hang magnet
  • magnet with a hole in it (if none available, the string can be taped to the magnet)
  • tape, to tape the string to a table top (or use clamp stand or support for hanging the magnet)
  • 3 other identical round/flat magnets
  • flat steel base, to attach the 3 magnets to e.g. tin plate, oven tray or upturned saucepan (or use the base of the clamp stand)
Procedure: 

Taken from the Exploratorium snack:

Lay the 3 identical magnets in a triangle under the support.
Hang the hole magnet so it is suspended between these 3 magnets, and is attracted to them, but does not touch them.
Gently swing the suspended magnet so that it moves irratically between the other 3 magnets.
Adjust the height and position of the suspended magnet, and the positions of the other 2 magnets until you get best results - the suspended magnet can swing for quite a while before it finds a stable position.

Try doing with a really long string from the ceiling.

Grades taught: 
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Teacher: 
Ingrid
Mari Matsuo
Monika Pilat
Romy Cooper
Teaching site: 
General Gordon Elementary
General Gordon Elementary Science Club
ingridscience afterschool
Simon Fraser Elementary