Will game make magnetism cool?

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Asking teachers to promote a playground toy is usually a guaranteed way to destroy its street cred. But toy firm Flair hopes to change this with a scientific game that has already taken Sweden by storm.

It is launching "Magstix", a game involving magnets and metal ball-bearings, with a national tour of science lessons. A professional actor will take a class, demonstrating scientific phenomena through the toy.

More than a quarter of a million Magstix sets have been sold in Sweden, where the game originates. The small, magnetic sticks and ball-bearings are accompanied by a set of cards, suggesting games that can be played. For example, they can be stood on end, to create towers, or used in the traditional catching game of jacks.

Yvonne Pesteridge, brand manager, said: "Children love straightforward games. This is swappable and collectable, so we recognised it as a potential craze.

"But we realised that it also has an educational slant. Without knowing it, children are learning about magnets, which is an important aspect of the national curriculum."

Staff at Flair worked with teachers to develop a number of key stage 2 lesson plans, in which basic magnetism experiments are carried out using Magstix. But Ms Pesteridge denies that Flair is using the curriculum as a convenient method of product-placement. She said: "Teachers are responsible for making classes interesting. We're just taking some of the work off their hands."

Caroline Gomez, science co-ordinator at Cheetham primary, in Manchester, believes her pupils benefited from the Magstix lesson. She said: "If children have fun with something, they'll learn from it."

"And they definitely want to play with this. Our head has been playing with it too. Whenever it's feasible, we should bring toys into the classroom."

Ibrahim Aliouche, 9, agreed. He said: "I don't care who gives toys to me, as long as they're good. My teacher knows what I like."

But he added: "Now, when I play with Magstix at home, it feels like homework."

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