Investigation Sequence



Written by:

Kristin Warner and Mike Edward                 Date


Focus Questions

What are magnets? What attraction do magnets have?


Content: Earth, Physical, & Life

Every magnet has a magnetic field, which interacts with the magnetic field of other objects.

Cross cutting concepts


Science Practice


Personal, Social, Technology, Nature of Science, History


Background information

Magnetic force is to be observed, there must be an interaction, either between magnetic fields of magnets or between a magnetic materials, such as soft iron. Even if magnets are the same size and shape, they may vary in magnetic strength. Magnets also age over time.additionalinfo

Activity Sequence

1. Stick to it
2. Fish and clips
3. Holding power
4. Through it all
5. Will a magnet attract through these?
6. Face to face

Activity Descriptions

Activity 1
Stick to it
Supply of sticky notes in 2 colors, magnets (one per student)
1. Demonstrate magnetism by hiding a magnet in your pocket, then casually bringing your scissors to the outside of the pocket.
2. Remove you hand and let the scissors remain stuck.
3. Have students discuss what was happening.
4. Distribute magnets, so that the students can test items from their desk and around the room.
5. Have students label the objects by making a class chart list. (Object/Material/Stick?)
6. Ask the students to discuss what types of materials magnets usually attract to.
7. Ask students how are these objects alike or different.
8. Ask the students when you hold a magnet near a magnetic object, what happens to the magnet. What happens to the object?

Activity 2
Fish and clips
2 brown lunch-size-bags (pools), 25 big paper clips (big fish), 35 little paper clips (little fish), 15 string(tied to any type of magnet), attached to dowel or non-sharp pencils (fishing pole)
1. Ask the students about their experiences fishing. List characteristics on the board.
2. Show the students a big and little paper clip. Have students discuss which a magnet will pick more up of.
3. With the fishing pole, students fish for big paper clips and record the catch.
4. Fish for small clips and record the catch.
5. Discuss which catch was more, and how much more.
6. Mix both big and little paper clips together in one bag and record the catch.
7. Make a chart on the board and have each group record their catches according to: Big, Little, and Mixed.
8. Ask students to write a math sentence using the greater than or less than symbols.

Activity 3
Holding power
For each group: 3 ceramic ring magnets, 1 large paper clip, with larger end bent into a hook, 70 paper clips, balance scale and gram masses.
1. Show students a magnet with hook and paper clip.
2. Estimate: ask students to estimate how many paper clips will a magnet hold.
3. Ask students to predict which would hold more paper clips, two magnets separately or two magnets together. (3, 4, and so on)
4. Record student’s predictions on the board.
5. Distribute one magnet, a hook, and clips to each group.
6. Have students hang clips on the hook one at a time until the hook falls off.
7. Have students count the clips on the hook, and graph the data.
8. Ask students why might the hook hold more with a second magnet unit added
9. Have students repeat the activity with multiple magnets.
10. Ask students why some students have more or fewer clips on their magnet.
11. Ask the students why do you think one 2-unit magnet didn’t hold twice as much as a single magnet. (3 times, 4 times, and so on)

Activity 4
Through it all
For each group: Magnet, ruler, tape, paper clip, telephone book, catalog, or other books with numbered pages.
1. Ask the students if they believe a magnet will attract through other materials. (Such as a page)
2. Have the students guess how many pages a magnet will attract a paper clip through.
3. Have students record their guesses in their journals.
4. Open each catalog to page one.
5. Place the magnet, on top of the ruler, on the left hand page, turn one page, and place the clip on top of the magnet, so that by moving the ruler you move the clip.
6. Continue to turn pages and move the clip until the clip will no longer move with the magnet.
7. Count pages or note page number and divide by two (because each page has two sides). Record the number.
8. Have students share observations with the whole class.
9. Have students discuss the affecting variables (magnets, clips, style of pages, and strategies used).
10. Have students design their own experiment demonstrating a magnet’s strength.
11. Have students perform their experiment for the class.

Activity 5
Will a magnet attract through these
For each group: Magnets, paper clips, wooden ruler, cardboard, fabric, tin foil, clear plastic cup, tin can, shoe, plastic block, glass jar
1. Have students observe materials. Predict and record which materials will a magnet and a paper clip interact.
2. Test each item with a magnet, and record results.
3. Have the groups share their test results with another group. Repeat part of the investigation when test results differ.
4. Have groups exchange magnets, materials, or test strategies and record results.
5. Have students write in their journals two sets: those through which the magnet could attract the clip, and those through which it could not.
6. Have students write an explanation about their results, why certain materials allowed for attraction.
7. Have the students share and discuss their results with the whole class.

Activity 6
Face to Face
2 sheets red construction paper, 2 sheets blue construction paper, red and blue materials for preparing magnets (masking tape with felt marker dots, colored plastic tape, filling dots, or tempera paint)
1. Ask the students what will happen when two magnets get close to each other.
2. Ask the students if it matters which sides of the magnets are facing one another.
3. Have students think of the four ways in which two magnets could be put together.
4. Discuss appropriate vocabulary with students: interact, like, unlike, attract, repel, move together, and move apart.
5. Distribute magnets and have students actually hold the magnets with red faces together.
6. Record students’ observations on the overhead.
7. Have students continue to perform trials with the other possibilities in the same way.
8. Have the students measure distances and form their own chart showing the results of their testing.
9. Ask the students if they see a pattern. Record the observations on the overhead.
10. Ask the students what words can be substituted for red and blue (positive and negative or north-and south-seeking poles).

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes