Applied Science - Physics (3A)

  • Identifying north and south on different magnets.
  • Discovering "magnetic force."


  • attracts
  • magnetic force
  • magnetism
  • repel

Students create magnetic forces with different types of magnets.


Magnetism is a force generated by the motion of spinning electrons all going in the same direction. Students will go over this in more detail in the post lab. However, this lab will have them experience the direction of magnetic force and the power of magnets. The magnets you are using are ALNICO, which are permanent magnets. These magnets never demagnetize due to the combination of nickel, cobalt and aluminum.

It is very important for students to experience magnetism and spend time on feeling the "force."


This lab is divided into 4 stations.  Have students spend about 5-8 minutes per station.

  1. Station #1.  Make sure the students put a sheet of paper over the magnet. If the iron filings are put directly on the magnet, the magnet will get "dirty" and the iron files are difficult to remove.  Students should  gently sprinkle the iron filings over the entire magnet. (Do not pour them out.) If a student gets any of the iron filings in their eye, wash it out immediately with water and donít rub their eyes. Demonstrate the procedure before students go to their stations.  

    An alternative way is to put some iron files in a zip lock bag and put the magnet on the outside. 

    The North and South poles create a pattern of strength of the magnet.  There is a line of force between the attraction.  Technically the force is generated in the north and seeks south.
  2. Station #2. The students are asked to make the magnets "float." Let them experiment with the rings to see if they can find the right combination. Assure them that they can float but don't give any clues how. Let them discover for themselves. When the magnetic rings float, they are positioned north/north or south/south.
  3. Station #3. These 2 magnets have iron filings on them. Have students try and find north and south. Remember, with these magnetic wands, north is on one of the large faces, south is on the opposite side. It will be difficult to decide which is north and which is south. They look very similar. Ask students to flip the direction of one of the magnets. The magnets will be in a north/north or south/south position and the iron filings will repel.
  4. Station #4.  How many paper clips can the students pick up. Who can hold the most? See if all the students come up with a similar number. If the strength of the magnet is the same, they should be able to pick up the same number.

In conclusion, go over the four different stations and discuss studentsí answers.

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