MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Mysteries of Magnetism

Gary Garber
Instructor of Physics
Boston University Academy
Boston, Massachusetts

This lesson will explore the connections between magnetism in natural materials and electromagnetism. The ultimate goal will be for students to form an understanding that the source of magnetism in natural materials is moving charges. It is helpful, but not required, for the students to have some work with electricity, and other distance forces (such as gravity or the electric force). The lesson will probably take two 50-minute periods to complete. Although the video footage is brief, the activities are in depth, inquiry-based, and can take time for the students to explore. The materials are not specifically prescribed, but can include things such as bar magnets, compasses, iron filings, wire, batteries, steel bolts, coils, straws, and hot glue. The activities include drawing the magnetic fields of bar magnets and electromagnets. The activities also include making a magnet from a drinking straw and iron filings.

Gary Garber teaches physics and engineering at Boston University Academy and oversees the BUA research program for students who spend their summer working in research laboratories. Gary is President of the New England Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers and has led dozens of professional development workshops. Gary runs the Boston University FIRST Robotics program, and has written two books on using LEGO MINDSTORMS, Instant LEGO Mindstorms EV3 and Learning LEGO Mindstorms EV3. Gary is an educational consultant working with the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach where he works with new educational technologies and tools such as Touch Tables, lab interface equipment, and a collaborative teacher’s toolkit platform called InterLACE.  

The following two urls will bring you to the PhET site for interactive simulations related to magnetism.

The following four sites present Java applets for interactive study on topics of magnetism created by Boston University physics professor, Andrew Duffy.

The following two sites are from Gary Garber’s Physics Teaching and Robotics blog and cover topics related to magnetism and electromagnetism.

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