After challenging themselves to create a simple electromagnet, your students can then challenge each other to see which prototype is the strongest, measured by how many paper clips their electromagnets can pick up.
If you can, try constructing your own electromagnet beforehand so you understand how it’s done.
Part of this activity involves your students competing to see who can create the strongest electromagnet. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of variables and how they can impact an experiment.
Ask your class how they might go about making sure that a free throw contest in basketball is fair. How would they make sure that no competitor has an unfair advantage?
This can be done by using the same ball and shooting at the same hoop and from the same line.
All of the things that can be different in an activity are called “variables” and in science the objective is to control all of those variables.
Your students will work individually to create an electromagnet. They should complete the "Build an electromagnet" worksheet as they follow these steps:
Gather the students and talk about different ways they could increase the number of paper clips their electromagnet can hold.
On their worksheet, have your students write a hypothesis on how to make a stronger electromagnet. Encourage them to write their hypotheses using “if, then” statements.
Have students test their hypotheses by changing something about their electromagnet and seeing how many paper clips it can hold. Ensure that they are filling in their worksheets as they test.
Bring the class together again and have students share their hypotheses and the results of their testing. Challenge them to think about other variables they might like to test.
Have your students explore other variables that can affect the strength of an electromagnet by using materials brought from home or found elsewhere in the school.