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Magnetic force through materials

Test magnetic force through different materials. Can be used as a free experimentation activity.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
  • magnets, stronger bar or wand magnets
  • pennies/washers, or other weights of the same size, that are attracted to a magnet
  • a collection of materials to test magnetic force through e.g. pie plate, plastic lid, cardboard, thin piece of wood, students can also use books and other objects found around the classroom

Students place coins on the material, then move a magnet around underneath, to see if it can move the coin through the material.
Encourage them to try different materials and thicknesses by stacking materials.
Using books, they can have fun adding the coin to an illustration.

The magnet will pull the coin through thinner materials, but not thicker, irrespective of the kind of material.
Steel and other iron-containing materials will attract the magnet themselves and affect the results - do not include iron-containing materials with younger students.

This activity shows that magnetic force can act through materials and can act at a distance (the magnet does not have to be touching the coin to attract it).

Grades taught: 
Gr 1
Gr 2
Lisa Shideler
Mari Matsuo
Monika Pilat
Teaching site: 
Nelson Elementary
Fraser Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Fraser Elementary