13th July 2001 at 01:00
Magnetic Mania. pound;9:95. Learning Resources,5 Merchants Close, Oldmeadow Road, King's Lynn, Norfolk PE30 4JX. Tel: 01553 762276. Web:

Did you know that Cleopatra held a magnetic lodestone to her forehead to prevent ageing? Or that Chinese sailors discovered the magnetic compass? The Magnetic Mania kit will help key stage 2 and 3 pupils explore magnetism in a fun but scientific way.

The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box and contains a limited amount of equipment including bar, horseshoe and ring magnets, a compass, several paper clips and a sachet of iron filings. The materials could easily be bought elsewhere, but the experiment cards make the kit an excellent resource.

Twenty-four coated A5 cards describe a range of activities that investigate magnetism in a clear, logical and progressive way. Each card contains an experiment for pupils to perform and, more importantly, information that explains their observations. This means they can work independently, and the kit would be ideal for a self-contained circus of activities. Written by American authors, the experiments contain no links to the national curriculum, but effectively cover all aspects of magnetism found at key stages 2, 3 and, to some extent, 4.

The activities are split into four units: "Magnetic attraction" asks (and answers) the question what is a magnet and what materials are attracted to one? It goes on to look at horseshoe and bar magnets and the forces they exert through their fields.

"Pushing away" shows how opposite poles attract while like poles push apart; demonstrated by "floating" ring magnets on a pencil shaft. These units are suitable for investigations at key stage 2 or to reinforce concepts on magnetism at key stage 3.

The final two units, on temporary magnets and lines of force, show how materials can be magnetised using a bar magnet and lines of force mapped with a compass. They also explain the Earth's magnetic field and investigate properties of electromagnetism.

The activities are suitable for key stages 3 and 4 although the presentation of the cards may appear over-simplistic to older pupils.

Nothing in this kit is particularly innovative or unavailable through other sources, but it succeeds in pulling together a range of activities that allow pupils to investigate magnetism in a coherent and structured way. The addition of extra materials would generate an inexpensive, self-contained series of experiments that cover the aspects of magnetism required at key stages 2 and 3.

Cliff Porter is a freelance writer on science

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