Week Fifty-Five: Magnets


March 7, 2016 by WittyLibrarian


Program Title: Magnets

Target Age Range: Tweens, Grades 4-6

Program Length: 90 minutes

Brief Description: Learn about the forces that make magnets work, and try your hand at a variety of fun magnetic experiments.


Large, powerful magnet

Different size magnets, both ceramic and neodymium

Cow magnet

Paper clips

Copper Tube, or Eddy Current Demonstration Kit

Bowl with padding

Iron filings

Vegetable oil

Measuring spoon

Small cups

Coffee stirrer

Cereal high in Iron

Paper plates

Sandwich Baggies

Water Bottles

Baby oil/mineral oil



Test tube that fits into the mouth of the water bottles

Crisp dollar bill

Various coins

Blunt nails




Toy cars




Instruction sheets (see handout section below)

Observation sheets  (see handout section below)

Cost: $$ 50 -100

Program Outline:

1. Introduction and explanation of magnetism. Magnetism by Chris Woodford on Explainthatstuff.com is a good explanation of magnetism.  

2. Break attendees off into groups.

3. Rotate groups between experiment stations until end of the program.


      Magnet Hands

      Copper Tube Test


      Magnetic Cereal

      Magnet Strength

      Magnetic Lines: Two Experiments

      Magnetic Money

      Transferring Magnetism

      Neutralizing Magnets

      Magnetic Push and Pull

      Flying Paperclip


Note: Both Ceramic and Neodymium magnets break easy. Be sure to stress that participants must be careful and gentle when handling magnets.

  • Magnet Hands

Supplies needed: Large Magnet, Paper clips

10frda.gifThis experiment was inspired by a large and very powerful magnet that was given to us. It use to reside in a defective DVD unlocker, and our maintenance department, knowing we had an upcoming program on magnets, rescued the magnet from the device and gave it to us. The magnet was strong enough to pick up paperclips through a hand.

For our experiment, we placed the strong magnet in the palm of participants’ hands, and had them wave their hand over a pile of paperclips and see how many they could pick up. Because of the strength of the magnet, we had a librarian oversee the table and ensure that kids were careful and safe in handling the magnet.  

  • Copper Tube Tests

Inspired by a Magnets Going Through Copper Pipe by Technology News on YouTube.com, we purchased an Eddy Current demonstration kit. We had the kids handle the Eddy Tube over a padded bowl to prevent the magnets from breaking when they exited the copper tube.

  • Ferrofluids

Supplies needed: Iron filings, Vegetable oil, measuring spoon, small cup, coffee stirrer, magnet

We discovered this experiment in the book Return of Gonzo Gizmos: More Projects & Devices to Channel Your Inner Geek by Simon Field

This was an exceptionally messy station, and an experiment that did not work as planned. We suspect that the strength of our magnets was too weak to be successful. While some changes were observed in the Ferrofluid, the coffee stirrer did not lock in place as described.

  • Magnetic Cereal

Supplies needed: Cereal (three varieties high in Iron), paper plates, baggies, magnets

We used both Get the Iron out–of Your Breakfast Cereal; Bring Science Home: Activity 15 by Katherine Harmon on Scientificamerican.com and Science Projects for Kids: Magnets and Metal by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. on Lifestyle.howstuffworks.com for this station. It was another messy station, with cereal exploding all over the surrounding area. Unfortunately, despite the mess, the experiment did not work as planned, and there was no discernible trace of iron to be found. We were uncertain if our magnets were weak, or our cereal was bad.

  • Magnet Strength

Supplies needed: Magnets: different shapes, sizes and types; paperclips

We had a variety of different magnets of shape and size available to test. Kids recorded the maximum number of paperclips they were able to pick up with each magnet. We were inspired by Magnet Science Projects on Hometrainingtools.com and Science Projects for Kids: Magnets and Metal by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. on lifestyle.howstuffworks.com.

Supplies needed: Iron filings, 5 bottles, baby oil/mineral oil, paper, funnels, magnets, cow magnet, test tube.

Despite multiple groups rotating around the stations, none tried the magnetic line on paper experiment; participants all gravitated to the cow magnet experiment. Unfortunately, despite working very well in test runs, the experiment did not go as planned in the program, with groups rarely able to replicate successful results. The participants did enjoy trying to make it work, though. 

Supplies needed: Crisp dollar bill, various coins, magnets

In theory, the dollar is suppose to gently move when a magnet was waved around it, and did so in trial runs before the program. However, despite many attempts, no one ever saw the dollar move during the actual program. The kids were quite earnest in their tests, in hopes of being successful, though. 

  • Transferring Magnetism

Supplies needed: Magnet, blunt nails, paper clips

From The Science Notebook Magnetism, Magnets and Electricity – Pt. 1 on Science-notebook.com. This experiment had moderate success. Some participants were able to magnetize the nail, while others had no luck. 

  • Neutralizing Magnets

Supplies needed: Magnets, paper, foil, cloth, foam, paper clips

From the book Magnetism: Experimenting with Science by Antonella Meiani. For this experiment, we attempted to lessen the magnetic field by placing material between the magnet and the magnetic object. We tried paper, foil, cloth, and foam.

This experiment might have been more successful if we had stronger magnets on hand. Kids discovered that it did not take much to negate the magnetic field of most magnets.

Supplies needed: Magnets, toy car

This was a popular and fun experiment, one of the few that worked as planned. Kids enjoyed moving the car around by waving a magnet at it.

Supplies needed: Paperclips, string, tape, magnets, scissors

A seemingly simple experiment, this one caused the most frustration. The concept of taping one end of the string down, and tying the other onto a paperclip was difficult for the kids to grasp, so very few paperclips flew.


Magnet Hands Instructions
Magnet Hands Observation Sheet
Copper Tube Test Instructions
Copper Tube Test Observation Sheet
Ferrofluids Instructions
Ferrofluids Observation Sheet
Magnetic Cereal Instructions
Magnetic Cereal Observation Sheet
Magnet Strength Instructions
Magnet Strength Observation Sheet
Magnetic Lines, Experiment 1 Instructions
Magnetic Lines, Experiment 1 Observation Sheet
Magnetic Lines, Experiment 2 Instructions
Magnetic Lines, Experiment 2 Observation Sheet
Magnetic Money Instructions Observation Sheet
Magnetic Money Observation Sheet
Transferring Magnetism Instructions 
Transferring Magnetism Observation Sheet
Neutralizing Magnets Instructions
Neutralizing Magnets Observation Sheet
Magnetic Push and Pull Instructions
Magnetic Push and Pull Observation Sheet
Flying Paperclip Instructions
Flying Paperclip Observation Sheet

Resources Used:


Return of Gonzo Gizmos: More Projects & Devices to Channel Your Inner Geek by Simon Field

Magnetism: Experimenting with Science by Antonella Meiani


Magnetism by Chris Woodford on Explainthatstuff.com

Magnets Going Through Copper Pipe by Technology News on YouTube.com

Eddy Current demonstration kit

Get the Iron out–of Your Breakfast Cereal; Bring Science Home: Activity 15 by Katherine Harmon on Scientificamerican.com

Science Projects for Kids: Magnets and Metal by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. on Lifestyle.howstuffworks.com

Magnet Science Projects on Hometrainingtools.com

Observing Magnetic Fields with Iron Filings by Enrique Zeleny on Demonstrations.wolfram.com

Magnetic Lines of Force on Exploratorium.edu

Physics in Your Wallet: Move your Money Maker with Magnets

The Science Notebook Magnetism, Magnets and Electricity – Pt. 1 on Science-notebook.com

Magnetic Invisible Force Pushing a Car on Lovemyscience.com

Floating Paperclip on Tabpurvis.blogspot.com

Additional Resources:

Investigating Magnetism by Sally M. Walker

Science Factory: Magnetism & Magnets by Michael Flaherty

What we would do differently:

Some programs go smoothly, perfectly as planned, and others slowly implode. This was an imploded program. While we tested the experiments beforehand, almost every experiment had complications when tried in the program. Not every group made it fully around the room, as the experiments that caused trouble created an experimental traffic jam.

If we were to offer this program again, it would be with significantly less experiments on hands. Of the ones we originally offered, we would suggest using only the following in a new program: Magnet Hands, Copper Tube Tests, Ferrofluids, Magnet Strength, Magnets Push and Pull. 

The rejected experiments might work if stronger magnets are obtained.

Adaption for older/younger audience:

Some of the successful experiments, namely Magnet Strength and Magnets Push and Pull, would work for a younger audience in grades 1-3. For teens, both the Magnet Hands and the Copper Tube Tests, would be of interest, as they are unique, different and fun.

One thought on “Week Fifty-Five: Magnets

  1. […] audience, since there are significant choking hazards involved. We have done electricity and magnetism programs with older audiences, which are good options concerning these topics for older […]

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