Electric and Magnetic Forces NGSS MS-PS2-3 and PS2-5

In the Electric and Magnetic Forces mini unit, students play with magnets, balloons, cans, tape and fabric to construct their own understanding of non contact forces. Then, they build an electromagnet and figure out how to make it stronger. Finally, students plan and carry out an investigation to prove fields exist between objects exerting non contact forces on each other.

Extension activities include designing a game that actively uses electric or magnetic forces - or both!

Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: Let students play! Provide wire, batteries, LEDs, magnets, buzzers and any other simple circuit materials you have on hand. If it is in your budget, try these Squishy Circuits. You can also make conductive and/or insulating dough with this recipe. Then, use the questions your students come up with to make connections throughout your unit.

Make it Relevant: Ask your students to imagine if they could not use electricity for one day, one week or one month. How would their lives change? Would there be any benefits?

Tips and Tricks: To create the best image of a magnetic field for question three, place about half a teaspoon of iron filings in a petri dish. Tape the lid closed and gently push a magnet over the closed lid. Too many filings makes the field difficult to view.

While building electromagnets for question four, you can use sandpaper or a nail file on the exposed copper wire to allow for better connections. You do not need to buy a wire stripper, use scissors.

Remind students to not hold the electromagnet or leave it on for too long (they can heat up quickly). To help with organization, create small bins of just basic electromagnet supplies for question four and additional, separate bins for question five.

Students plan and carry out two investigations in this unit. One to determine how to increase the strength of their electromagnet and one to collect evidence that fields exist between non contact forces.

Focus on good investigation set-up and offer students as much freedom as they can handle. We've had students successfully build an electromagnet using multiple batteries and conductive dough. We've also had kids demonstrate non contact forces by using a magnet to push an iron marble down a ramp to push a toy car! Offer as many materials as possible and encourage creativity and play even as they design experiments.

Enrichment Ideas: Challenge students to learn more about fish that make electricity.

Why do they use electricity? How do they not shock themselves? Are electric eels the only electric fish? Here is a great TED-Ed animation to help kids get started.