Brief Description:

Students learn about magnets and experiment to discover what makes objects magnetic.

Grades: 3, 4, 5, 6

Time: 30 mins

Keywords:  magnetism, poles, repulsion, attraction, magnetic fields

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will be introduced to the concept of magnetism
  • Students will understand what makes an object magnetic


  • Magnets
  • Compasses
  • Magnetism Investigation bags should contain:
    • Penny
    • Washer
    • Nut
    • rubber square
    • clothes pin
    • paper clip
    • Battery


  1. Introduce magnetism. Magnetism is defined as a physical phenomenon produced by the motion of electric charge, resulting in attractive and repulsive forces between objects. Magnets are surrounded by something called a magnetic field. Magnets have two poles, a north and a south pole. Opposites attract (attraction), likes repel (repulsion).
  1. The earth is a giant magnet, with a north and south pole. A compass works because it interacts with the earth’s magnetic field, thus pointing in the direction of north.
  2. Pass out magnets and compasses. What happens when you put a magnet next to a compass?
  3. Students can experiment with how magnets interact with other magnets, but what else is magnetic? In the second half of this activity, students will predict and test to see if different materials are magnetic.
    1. Students can predict which objects are magnetic orally as a class, or on individual worksheets.
    2. Worksheet:
Object Predict: Is it magnetic? Result after testing: Is it Magnetic?
Rubber Square
Clothes Pin
Paper clip
  1. Allow students to experiment, testing to see if the magnet will stick to these object.
  2. Discuss what was magnetic and what was not. Were there objects that students predicted were magnetic that were not? Were there objects that students predicted were not magnetic that were? What makes things magnetic?
    1. Iron is the most common metal when we think of magnets, as are alloys that include iron. Most other common metals are nonmagnetic and most non-metals are nonmagnetic too. Other elements like nickel, cobalt, and rare-earth metals are also magnetic.

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