Standards Database Logo
Home | Browse | Search | Purpose | History | Process | Acknowledgment| Reference



McREL Standards Activity

Magic Magnets

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to classify objects as metals and nonmetals, and will be able to demonstrate that magnets can make certain metals and other magnets move without actually touching them.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 10.Understands forces and motion
   Level I [Grade K-2]
   Benchmark 1. Knows that magnets can be used to make some things move without being touched
 Standard 8.Understands the structure and properties of matter
   Level I [Grade K-2]
   Benchmark 1. Knows that different objects are made up of many different types of materials (e.g., cloth, paper, wood, metal) and have many different observable properties (e.g., color, size, shape, weight)
Thinking and Reasoning
 Standard 3.Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and differences
   Level I [Grade K-2]
   Benchmark 2. Classifies things in terms of number, shape, texture, size, weight, color, motion, sound, and behavior
Student Product:Classification chart and optional demonstration
Material & Resources:
  • A variety of magnets
  • Items made of metal that magnets attract and repel, such as paper clips, nuts, and bolts
  • Items made of materials that are not affected by magnets, such as pebbles, marbles, scraps of paper, string, and wooden blocks.
Teacher's Note:No supplementary notes for this activity.
Divide the class into small groups (3-4 students per group) and provide each group with 2-3 magnets and a paper bag that contains the following (or similar) items:
  • metal nuts
  • bolts
  • paper clips
  • marbles
  • pebbles
  • small scraps of paper
  • small wooden blocks or chips

Explain to students that they need to come up with a method to separate the items in the bag into two groups: (1) items that are affected by magnets and (2) items that are not affected by magnets. To do this, students should create a chart to compare the items in the bag. The left-hand column of the chart should list the items (e.g., wood, pebbles, paper clips, marbles, etc.). The top row of the chart should list the properties to be compared (e.g., magnetic? (yes or no); material [such as wood, glass, metal]; shape; weight).

Allow students time to experiment with the different items and to fill in the chart. When students have completed this process, have them separate their items into two groups based on the information in their charts. Then lead a discussion in which you focus on the properties of different objects, and how these properties affected the items’ response to the magnets. The following discussion questions may be used:

  1. Did all of the items in your bag respond the same way to the magnets?
  2. What are each of the items in the bag made of? Are all of the items made of the same material (e.g., metal, wood, glass)?
  3. Which items were affected by the magnets?
  4. What did these items do when magnets were placed near them?
  5. Are all of the items that could be moved by the magnets made of the same material?
  6. Why do you think the nuts, bolts, and paper clips could be moved by the magnets, while the other items could not be moved?
  7. Can you name the property that determines whether an object can be moved by a magnet?

As an optional closing to this activity, students may prepare a magic trick using the magnets to move different metals without touching them. Allow students to be creative ? they may choose to disguise the magnets and metals in some way, or cover them using plastic egg shells or paper. When students have had adequate time to prepare, they present their magic tricks to the class, and explain how they made their "magic magnet" trick work.