Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Science Night

We had a great time playing with magnets tonight. It didn't start out that way - they both complained until we actually got going and found our first surprise.

My kids are in first and third grade so we worked on all of the experiments I wrote up a couple of days ago. First we did a magnet hunt discovering that there were some kinds of metal that the magnet did not stick to.

Then we made some predictions about what a magnet would pick up. We had a pile of things like pom poms, cotter pins, washers, nuts, nails, tooth picks, pipe cleaners, and buttons. The surprising items turned out to be a button that looked plastic but wasn't and the cotter pins which are metal but not picked up by a magnet.
Then we looked at how much our magnets could pick up. We tested for sets of items: paper clips, washers, pom poms and tooth picks. We were pretty close on all of our predictions. We painted with paper clips.
We predicted that none of the coins would be picked up. Testing the prediction... we found that two of the three coins were picked up by the magnet: a Canadian quarter and a 50 centene piece from Costa Rica.

We wondered if there were other US coins that a magnet could pick up like an older nickel or a steel penny. In the end the kids had a great time and so did I!

Magnets again

I forgot one of the most fun things you can do with magnets! If you have a budding artist and want to encourage them to embrace creative science, try painting with magnets.

  • Grab your paint - I usually stick with two primary colors, but you go with as many as you like.
  • You will need a thin paper plate for those of you with a low mess threshold or paper set inside a box top (try a shoe box top) for those of you who don't mind a little extra clean up.
  • One paper clip per color of paint is a good place to start, but if you have more than one scientist working together, you might need more.
  • One magnet - button magnets are fine for this project.

Dip one end of the paper clip into the paint and from below the plate (or paper), move the clip around with the magnet. Remove that clip and try another color.

Can you blend the colors? If so, what new color do they make? Try making designs or letters. Can you move the clip really fast or does it work best slowly? Why? What could you do to make the paper clip move faster? What else could you paint with?

What else would you like to know about magnets? Can you write that as a hypothesis - a question that can be tested? Post your hypotheses here!

Monday, September 27, 2010

October Dates

We have some October dates:

Oct 5 - Rainbows

Oct 19 - Bats

If you can join us at the Millbury Public Library at 10:30am, please sign up at 508 865 1181.


PreK - 2 Magnets

Here are some ideas you can try at home with the whole family when you explore magnets. To record our observations, everyone should have a science notebook. If you are going to complete more than one experiment, use a notebook. If this is going to be your only exploration or young child, feel free to fold a piece of paper in half so it looks like a book.

In addition to your notebook/paper, you will need:
Crayons or pencils
Magnets - button magnets (round magnets avail at Michaels) are a must, bar magnets are even better
About a dozen things to test with - some that might stick to a magnet and some that won't (ideas are paper clips, washers, pom poms, tooth picks, rubber bands, beads, small toys, pipe cleaners)
A number of paper clips and washers
A number of tooth picks and rubber bands

Experiment 1
What does a magnet stick to?
Using a button magnet find some things that your magnet will stick to and things your magnet won't stick to. Record at least 5 of each category. What is the same about the things that your magnet sticks to? What is the same about the things your magnet won't stick to?

Experiment 2
At the top of one page in your book (or paper) write: I think the magnet will stick to...
At the top of the next page write: I think the magnet won't stick to ...

Now take your pile of goodies (pom poms, washers, paper clips, etc.) and divide into two piles - those you predict will stick and those you predict won't stick to your magnet. Record these in your notebook.

It is time to test. Grab your magnet and see if you were correct. (note: pipe cleaners and toys/beads that look like metal but are plastic are both great ways to really get discussions going as they will often get put in the wrong category.) Record your answers either by circling the ones that turned out to be in the wrong pile or writing them on a separate page.

What was the most surprising find?

Experiment 3

Make a small chart with pictures or words that looks like so:
Make a predition of how many of each object your magnet will pick up. When you are done predicting, you should test with your magnet. Write down the actual answer. Were you right?

Experiment 4
There are three kinds of metal that magnets will attract: steel, pure cobalt, and pure nickel. Test a U.S. five-cent coin to answer the question “Is a U.S. nickel coin made of pure nickel?” What about coins from other countries?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Tuesday we are going to play with magnets at the Millbury Public Library. If you can join us, call to register at 508 865 1181.

With some of the changes in curriculum at the local public school where they DROPPED science right off the schedule (insert a picture here of my long hair standing straight out!) - I will post some ways to complete a fun lesson on magnets appropriate for early elementary grade students. So grab a science notebook and stay tuned.

Science words: observation, prediction, force, magnet, attract, repel, none, graphs

Always take care to use magnets safely with young children. Be sure they cannot be swallowed or used around video equipment and cameras.

Magnet hunt – what magnets are in your house? Fridge magnets, some fridge doors, cabinet doors, wallets, toys, etc

What will a magnet stick to in the house? Can you take your magnet and find things it will stick to? Try everything that strikes your imagination. One sometimes unexpected metal spot is the door into your house.

Magnet Fishing – tie a magnet to a string and the string to a pole. Put paper clips on the end of paper fish. You can “fish” over and over. How many fish can you catch at once?

I'm a little magnet can't you see
Anything metal comes right to me.
If it is not metal you will see.
It just will not stick to me.

What can magnets do? By Allen Fowler
Marion Magnet’s First Mission by Sharon Hackleman

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September Dates

It has been AGES since I've posted - summer was just too much fun to be inside writing (and I spent time in Maine with no electricity or wi-fi).

I was still busy - as you can read on my beekeeping blog, I've been experimenting with baking brownies with only honey as a sweetener. I kept track of what I did and the results which influenced my next experiment each time. Baking is a really fun way to do science together - you get to make predictions about what will taste good, dive in an test your hypothesis, and then share your results.
I didn't share the results of my first batch of brownies with my families' taste buds, I just told them they were terrible. I was so surprised that there was such a thing as too much chocolate.
Food gives us so many ways to think critically and to do science. We've been growing two kinds of cherry tomatoes and we belong to a local CSA where we picked yet a third variety. We all had one of each color on our plates at dinner, made a prediction about which ones we'd like best, then tasted them. Yum. The three girls liked the orange sunburst the best and the two boys at the table liked the yellow pear tomatoes best.
This month, we will be hosting Messy Fingers at the Millbury Public Library at 10:30 am on
Sept 7 and 21. We will learn about apples and magnets. Please sign up at the library as space is limited 508 865 1181.