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Homeschool Science: Magnetism

It’s interesting how in homeschooling one thing leads on to another. We had been doing Geography and learning about the different hemispheres, this lead naturally to the points of the compass, which lead onto the earth’s magnetic field. Thus a whole day of studying magnetism.

Here are the experiments we did to study magnetism (all apparatus was bought on ebay with little expense).

Experiments for Studying Magnetism

  1. I gave the children magnets and asked them to look around the house for things which are magnetic and things which are non-magnetic. They then looked at there results and worked out what makes a material magnetic.

    It is easy to assume all metals are magnetic. This is not the case only iron, nickel, cobalt, gadolinium, neodymium and samarium are magnetic (although you will not be finding neodymium in your house!) An easy way to test this is to find a gold or silver ring or something made from aluminium.

  2. We took two bar magnets and experimented with how they interact with each other. From this they were able to work out that opposites attract.
  3. Next we looked at the magnetic field of a bar magnet. I bought some iron filings off ebay scattered some on to a plastic lid. We then placed the bar magnet under the box and watched how the filings moved into the direction of the field lines. The children enjoyed moving the magnet around under the lid to see how the filings reacted.
  4. Finally we made our own compass. We took an ordinary sewing needle and a small piece of cork from a wine bottle (about 1cm thick). We used our magnet to magnetise the needle- you do this by running the magnet along the length of the needle- making sure you only go in one direction with it- the same way you would stroke a cat. Then attach the needle to the top of the cork with a piece of tape. Gently place the cork and needle into a basin of water. The needle should rotate to north-south. You can check this has worked by looking at a compass (compass apps can be downloaded onto a smartphone).

We supplemented the experiments by reading books on magnetism from the library, and watching a couple of youtube videos about magnetism.

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