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How to use a bar magnet in education?

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Bar magnet experiment being conducted by two children and a teacher Bar magnets can be used in many ways within education to explain the facts about magnetism. One of the most important facts to teach students about magnets is about magnetic field. There are two separate experiments which can be used to highlight this:

Iron filings experiment

Things needed for an iron filings magnet experiment: iron filings, bar magnet, and a piece of paper Things you will need:

  • Bar magnet
  • Iron filings
  • Piece of paper
Bar magnet underneath a piece of paper

Step 1 – Place magnet under paper

Place a bar magnet underneath a piece of paper. Outline the bar magnet onto the piece of paper with the north and south clearly labelled.

The purpose of the piece of paper is to prevent the magnets actually touching the iron filings.

Iron filings over a piece of paper showing the magnetic field of a bar magnet

Step 2 – Place iron filings onto paper

Scatter the iron filings onto the piece of paper to reveal the magnetic field of the bar magnet.

Compass experiment

Things needed for a magnetic field experiment: compass, pencil, piece of paper, and bar magnet Things you will need:

  • Bar magnet
  • Sheet of paper
  • Compass
  • Pencil
Compass and bar magnet on a piece of paper with compass on the north pole

Step 1 – Place magnet onto paper

Place the bar magnet at the bottom of the piece of paper with the compass placed an inch above its north pole.

Marking the paper with the pencil by the north pole shown with a compass

Step 2 – Mark out north pole

Use the pencil to mark a dot on the paper in front of the north pole of the compass pointer.

Compasses around a bar magnet showing the magnetic field

Step 3 – Continue until south pole is reached

Move the compass forward until the south pole of the compass needle points to the dot. Continue this process until the compass reaches the south pole of the compass. Then repeat again from the south pole to the north pole and then see what the finished pattern looks like.

Wonkee Donkee says "These two experiments highlight the movement of the magnetic field (from north to south) and that magnetism can work through many types of materials e.g. paper"