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Magical magnets

Magnets often appear magical to young children, who are fascinated by their unseen power. This has led us to perform all sorts of tricks with them, including mysterious moving mini-beasts and puzzle mazes.

We also tried a short drama in Year 1 to enhance their understanding of these forces.

Using the red and blue plastic-encased magnets as a starter, the children were reminded how the different ends of the magnets attract or repel each other. Then they were divided into two groups and given a red or a blue sticker on the back of their hand, so they instantly became North or South Pole of the magnet. We used this to act out the attraction and repulsion forces we had just seen. First the children held their hands about 3cm apart from someone in their group with the same colour sticker and took turns to "repel" each other. They could "push" their partner away without touching them!

Then they stood and mingled in the centre of the room. Every time they met someone with the same colour sticker, they turned their back and walked away, but meeting someone with a different colour they shook hands.

Finally they moved round again and when they found someone with a different colour, they could hold hands and sit down in a circle. The children soon noticed that although they could sit next to one partner, the person on the other side was not necessarily "attracted" to them. Could they hold hands with that person, too, or would they be repelled? Soon we were sitting in a circle with alternate colour stickers and everyone was happy. I realised later how much the children had enjoyed this when I saw them re-enacting the drama in the playground.

Caroline Palmer Year 1 class teacher, St Clement's and St John's Infant School, Bournemouth

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