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Age Range: 7-11
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • D & T
  • Science

How do magnets work?

Investigating everyday products to see if they are magnetic

Some products are made from magnetic materials, whereas others are not. Can you find out which is which?

In this activity learners will predict whether they think different products are magnetic based on the material that each product is made from. They will then test their theory by using magnets, to see whether or not each product is attracted to a magnet.

This resource is a great way for KS2 students to learn all about magnets and could be used as a one-off activity or as part of a wider unit of work focusing on magnets and magnetism. It can also be used in conjunction with the IET Education ‘Magnet Madness’ resource, developed alongside the School of Engineering at Cardiff University.

Activity: How do magnets work?

This is one of a set of resources developed to support the teaching of the primary national curriculum. They are designed to support the delivery of key topics within science and design and technology. This resource focuses on identifying whether everyday products are made from magnetic materials.

This activity could be completed as individuals, in pairs or in small groups. Learners could be given all the products at once to test, or the teacher may wish to lead through one product at a time, recapping the key tasks and questions for them to consider as they go through.

Discussion topics and key questions for learners can be found on the presentation below and detailed instructions on how to complete the activity can be found on the activity sheet.

As an optional extension students could identify the specific materials from which each product is made. They could also list examples of potential uses of magnetic materials in products. As a class you could discuss ideas for products that make use of magnets and/or magnetic materials.

This activity will take approximately 40-60 minutes to complete.

Tools/resources required

Parts and products for testing:

  • Magnets
  • Plastic drinks cups
  • 2 pence coins
  • Steel door keys
  • Aluminium drinks cans
  • Steel paper clips
  • Wooden toy cars

The engineering context

Engineers need to know the properties of magnets, which materials are magnetic and which materials are non-magnetic. This knowledge could be used when identifying and creating potential solutions to future engineering problems.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this exercise students will know which materials are magnetic and which are not, they will be able to give examples of magnetic and non-magnetic materials and they will be able to test products to see whether they are made from magnetic materials.

Download the free How do magnets work? activity sheet below!

All activity sheets, worksheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation.

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