Grade: elementary
Subject: Science

Teachers.Net Lesson Plans

#13. Exploring Ring Magnets

Science, level: elementary
Posted by Kyle Yamnitz (
The Lesson Plans Page
University of Missouri, USA
Materials Required: Ring magnets (2+ per student), pencils or dowel rods (1 per student)
Activity Time: 1 class period
Concepts Taught: Magnets

Topic: Magnets Grade Level: Third

Concept: Like poles of magnets repel each other while opposite poles attract. The

repelling force is stronger than the force of gravity for the ring magnets.

Student Materials:

--ring magnets (2 or more per student)

--pencils or dowel rods (1 per student)
--optional clay (enough to keep each pencil upright)
--floating magnets worksheet (or some other sheet upon which students can draw

how the magnets stick together on the pencil, how they float, and what it

looks like when the pencil is filled with magnets) (one per student)

Teacher Background Information:
Magnets have a magnetic field with the strongest magnetic forces at its poles. There are usually two poles on a magnet. Like poles repel and opposite poles attract to each other.

Management Strategies:
Divide students into groups of two or three so that they can combine their magnets for greater exploration. Use the clay for bases for the pencils to keep them sturdy and upright.

1. Ask the question: "What would happen if you put two ring magnets on an upright pencil?"

2. Have students make predictions on what will happen and discuss them.

3. Now provide time for students to try different ways of stacking two magnets on each pencil. Have students return to their predictions to find out how close they were. This is also a good time to have students fill out their activity sheets describing what happened.

4. Allow students to use all their magnets to fill up their pencils with floating magnets and record what they see.

5. Let them continue exploring by arranging different numbers of magnets in various ways on their pencils.

6. The following questions could be used for extending students thinking during or after the activity:
--Why is this students magnet floating and these others are not?
--What happens if you put your fingers between the floating magnets?

--Why does the magnet float when it is on one side, but not when it is on

the other?
--Where are the positive and negative poles on the ring magnets?
--Does the pencil have anything to do with the magnets floating?

--Why doesnt gravity hold the magnets down?

--What happens to the spaces between the magnets as you add more

--Can you make the magnets bounce? Why does this happen?
--Can you make the top magnet jump off of the pencil?

Assessment is not really needed since students will learn through the activity itself without any problems. However, the activity sheet can be used as an indicator of understanding of what happens. Also, the products of the extension activities could be assessed. Student participation and their answering of questions could be looked at as well. Most likely, if students participate, they have learned what is required of the activity.

--Use a long dowel rod to float all available magnets from the class and observe

what happens.
--Do the same as the first extension activity, but measure the space between the

magnets on top and the space between the magnets near the bottom.

Observe the differences and discuss them.
--Ask students for ideas on how the floating magnets could be useful in society,

industry, or technology.
--For an art activity, have students make puppets that will stand up on the top

floating magnet. Also, these puppets could then be used for a puppet


AIMS Education Foundation. (1991). Mostly magnets. AIMS Education Foundation.