Magnetic Attraction

This science project teaches us how to make magnets. We also investigate what objects are attracted to magnets.

What is a magnet

A magnet is something that attracts (or pulls) objects towards it. This horseshoe magnet has pulled an iron bar towards it from a distance of 3 centimeters. We can say that magnetism is a force that can attract objects from a distance.

horseshoe magnet and iron bar attracted to poles

Click on image for slide show

A magnetic force is different to the pulling force you need if you want to pull a chair towards you. When you pull a chair towards you, you will need to hold onto the chair. If you do not hold onto the chair it will not move! Pulling a chair is a direct pulling force.

Different types of magnet

1) Natural magnets

There are some rocks that are naturally magnetic. One type of rock that is very magnetic is called ‘lodestone’. In the picture below it looks like paperclips have been glued to the rock, but this is not what happened. The paper clips have been pulled towards (attracted to) the rock because ‘lodestone’ is naturally magnetic.

lodestone attracting paperclips

Lodestone is formed through volcanic activity. When a volcano erupts, very hot liquid rocks are forced upwards out of the volcano from deep inside the Earth.

volcano erupting in Hawaii sending molten lava spilling over sides

These red hot liquids (volcanic lavas) flow down the side of the volcano and cool down.

Aerial view of Pu‘u ‘O‘o fountain erupting

What an amazing sight!

eruption of kilauea volcano showing red hot lava flowing down the mountain side

After cooling down the lava flows become solid (solidify) and some become lodestone rocks.

red hot lava in Hawaii showing solidified and molten lava

Over millions of years the rocks sometimes end up in rivers where they are worn down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Rogue Gorgue showing water cascading over volcanic lava

These smaller lumps of rock are washed down to the seashore. Once on the seashore the action of the waves grind the rocks into yet smaller pieces until they become sand….. and a black beach is formed!

Black sand beach at Kamoamoa, Hawaii

The sand on black beaches is often magnetic and made of lodestone sand! It even sticks to magnets!

magnetic sand sticks to magnet top of bar magnet

Great for bathing in! On beaches near Kawhia on New Zealand’s North Island hot poopls of water bubble up out of the magnetic sand onto the beach.

Family swimming in a pool of magnetic sand , Kawhia, New Zealand

2) Permanent magnets

These are made in factories and come in all different shapes, sizes and different strengths of magnetism. Because they are made in factories they often have strong ‘pulling power’ and do not lose their magnetism.

3) Electromagnets

bar magnet

These are coils of wire surrounding a piece of iron. When the electric current is turned on the iron nail becomes a magnet. When the electric current is switched off the electromagnet loses its magnetic power of attraction.

wire wrapped round a nail attached to a battery making an electromagnet

4) Temporary magnets

It is now your chance to make a magnet! The magnet that you make in the classroom will probably not keep its magnetism for longer than a few days, so we”ll call it a ‘temporary’ magnet. You will need a nail, a permanent bar magnet, some paper and sellotape. Follow the instructions carefully in this video;

Write a factual account explaining how you made your magnet. How did you test your nail magnet to make sure it worked?

Interesting science projects using magnets

  • Take a number of objects such as a pencil, rubber, metal pencil sharpener and keys. Predict which objects will stick to a magnet. Now test each object to see if your predictions are correct. What types of objects are attracted to the magnet?
  • Try this science experiment; take one magnet, try to move a paperclip from a distance through different thicknesses of paper and card. eg thin paper, thick paper, thin card, thick card
  • Take several magnets all with different strengths of magnetism. Investigate how many paperclips each can attract.

magnetic attraction how many paperclips can a magnet attract

  • Watch this Micky Mouse cartoon. Remember the names of objects that are attracted to the horseshoe magnet.

  • Check out these 10 ideas for carrying out science experiments using magnetism

  • Look at how these magnets appear to defy the laws of gravity! Amazing!

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