While she was an elementary teacher at Richford Elementary School, Sarah King received a Challenge Grant to conduct an activity she called “Magnet Design” with her third grade students.
This creative project was designed to teach the students four main concepts about magnetism: magnets can push and pull, the push and pull of a magnet can transfer through another material, the size and strength of a magnet are not necessarily related, and magnets can stick to some, but not all, metals.
Using this knowledge, the students were challenged to define real-world problems that might be solved using magnets. Each student would then prepare a proposal in which he or she would use magnets to solve the problem.
To prepare a proposal, the kids had to research materials availability, costs, and practicality. The kids were very creative with their projects. Some popular problems the kids tackled included using magnets to make desk organizers, using magnets to create storage devices, and making wearables such as a helmet with a removable visor held in place by magnets. Students with similar ideas were grouped in teams to work together on making one prototype.
Ms. King says that she saw the kids really get excited about the Magnet Design activity. They enjoyed being creators and inventors. The fact that the kids received funding to purchase materials for their projects also helped give them a sense of pride and ownership in their designs. Ms. King did notice that the proposal process in this project ended up being too complex for the 3rd grade class, and she made adjustments to simplify the process as they began to make progress. Overall, it was a good activity, as it encouraged the students to critically evaluate their ideas and think about details in order to justify their designs. Ms. King is currently a Math Interventionist at Johnson Elementary School, so she doesn’t get the opportunity to do STEM classroom activities, however she believes the magnet materials will go to good use in future classes at Richford Elementary.