Magnets Can Go from Classroom to Playground
Magnets have the powerful ability to entertain your students while teaching them about the earth’s magnetic field in a variety of experiments. Magnets can go from the classroom to the playground, requiring further exploration of the earth’s magnetic fields. By introducing the magnetized compass, students will then learn valuable directional skills and practical applications.
Classroom Experiments using Magnets
I like to use large red-plastic handled horseshoe-shaped magnets, which are easy for young students to hold, and do not get lost. Although these are low-strength magnets (easily re-magnetized) they make for great classroom experiments.
Have your students pull a variety of metal items and refrigerator magnets, guided underneath a clear sheet of Plexiglas, using their horse-shoe magnet. Depending on the magnetic strength, try the same experiment using a sheet of cardboard, or underneath table tops, dragging smaller metal items on top.
Have the children greet each other by the ends of their horseshoe magnets to feel the pull of opposing magnetic attraction, and the repelling sensation while trying to connect with the same poles. This can also be turned into a fun social-skills game, comparing the magnetic poles to people in our lives, connecting with some while not so much with others.
Outdoor Experiments using Magnets
Taking large magnets outdoors and running them through the sand is a great way to show your students all the metals flakes and particles in the earth. Collect them in a jar by wiping the metals off the magnets, and repeat until there is enough to examine under closer magnified inspection. Coins and other objects may also be discovered.
To find true north early American Indians did not have compasses, but they would find their way through the woods, by examining the direction moss grew on the trees (when sun or stars were hidden from view) as cited in Trivia-Library.com’s article “Directions in the Wilderness Secret Language of Trees”. In the northern hemisphere moss grows on the north side of trees, and the opposite is true in the southern hemisphere, helping discovery of true north or south in a wooded environment.
Teaching Directions on a Compass
Teach your students compass headings on the blackboard before sending them adventuring with a compass, and then have them find their way around a predetermined playground maze . Incorporate the magnetic properties of the earth while showing how the compass will always line up with the top “N” or true-north position.
Draw a compass circle showing the headings (as you would a clock) N for north at the top (12:00 noon) position, E for east at the (3:00 o’clock) right-hand position, S for south at the (6:00 o’clock) bottom position, and W for west at the (9:00 o’clock) left-hand position. Between the major compass headings insert the compass directions (clockwise) NE, SE, SW and NW.
Directional Experiments using a Compass
Because the compass contains a magnetized hand (or arrow) always pointing north, it is possible to conduct scavenger hunts indoors or out. Teaming the children into groups with a teacher’s aide (holding the compass) your students can use the magnetic clues they learned, to help determine directions within the play yard confines.
At various points along a pre-made path give students compass-heading instructions, to assist them along their guided adventure. Have treats waiting at the end of the trail and your students will want to repeat this lesson/game over and over, until they get it right.
Ask your children to pay close attention to street or freeway signs when driving with their parents. For practical application and compass practice have your students notice the directions of North, East, South and West, as they guide drivers to their destination.