May 14, 2013

WonderWorks: Magnets

A concept that incorporates Science, Technology (tools), and Engineering (all sorts of fun "problems" to solve!):  magnets are also great fun!

Today's Topic: Magnets
--lots of metal "stuff"  (we used:  paperclips, small bits of pipe cleaner, metal paper fasteners, keys, coins,  thumbtacks, an old (fairly clean) bicycle chain, juice concentrate lids, metal washers, bolts and screws, a metal hole punch, and probably a few more things I've forgotten)
--plastic containers with tight lids to put some of the more dangerous loose bits into (thumbtacks, I'm looking at you!).  Empty water bottles would work well, I used deli-type containers since that's what I had on hand.
--some non-metal stuff  (we had glass marbles, bouncy balls, plain wooden building blocks, metal (but not iron) coins and keys, and some metallic confetti)
--a few special things (all optional, of course):  plastic cases with iron filings, test tubes with ferrofluid, magnetic Tegu blocks, magnetic marbles, magnetic putty (you can theoretically make your own if you prefer)
--magnetic wands, horseshoe magnets, magnetic pincushions, "donut" magnets... as large a variety of (preferably non-choking hazard sized) magnets as you can collect.

 cover art Magnets : pulling together, pushing apart / Rosinsky, Natalie M. 
Note:  I'm not particularly crazy about this book for a read-aloud-to-young-children option, but it was the best I could find after much searching. Anyone know of any picture books that deal with magnets or magnetism?

 What Kids Do: experiment, experiment, experiment!

 (this container had both magnetic marbles and bouncy balls, just to make things interesting...)

 We were lucky enough to be able to borrow two display tubes with ferrofluid from the Madison Children's Museum and these were the hit of the day.  Everyone (including, or perhaps especially adults) was fascinated by these!
 This mom and son played a game to see who could grab the black blob with their magnet.
 I also challenged kids to go around the room hunting for more things their magnets would stick to.
 Here are two short videos of some fun things kids found to do with the magnets:

This was a really fun class and I think everyone enjoyed the freedom to just explore and experiment at their own pace.  I saw so many "WOW!" faces, which I love!

Adult Challenge of the week:  Don't tell your child they're wrong (or right!)--let them experiment and figure out the answer for themselves.

Hindsight Tip:  Don't forget to remind the group that the objects in the plastic containers should stay inside the containers (not get dumped out on the table).

Variations to try: 
--a magnetic gyro wheel might be fun to add to the mix, or a Wooly Willy toy
--if you want to see more video footage of the ferrofluid in action, there are many videos here with accompanying funkadelic soundtracks.

Related Apps:
--although playing with real magnets will definitely teach more about magnetism than any app, the Toca Boca Robot Lab app includes an industrial strength giant magnet that picks up your finished robot at the end of each gameplay.
--There is also a free knock-off of the Wooly Willy game as an app available on the iTunes called "A Cat: Magnet Doodle."  I think the real game is more fun, but the cat app is better than the Wooly Willy brand app which (is not free and) doesn't include the essential part of the original gameplay where you drag the "iron filings" from the bottom of the screen up to the face.

**Thank you to everyone who has read this far!  A quick note to let you know that this blog will be pretty quiet for the next few weeks as I gear up for the madness of summer.  Best wishes to all of my readers who are children's librarians as you prepare for your own crazy summers!  A quick note:  I also have a new program called, "First Chapter Book Club" where we've been reading things like Frog and Toad and Mr. Putter and Tabby books.  I haven't blogged these since they're not "maker" programs in any sense, but would any of you be interested in hearing about them?  Happy Spring, to you all!**

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