Halloween is only a week away, and our family is starting to get excited! All the boys have their costumes, the truck or treats are on the calendar, and we even have some candy ready for the actual night. But our family isn’t really ready for an occasion until we find a way to pull science into the event. So the boys and I created this simple magnetism STEM activity in the spirit of Halloween!
Magnetism STEM Activity: Make a Floating Ghost!
Before we started our experiment, I went over the concept of magnetism with my oldest son, who is in the fourth grade right now. I asked him what he knew about magnets and how they interact with one another. He noted a few things:
1. Magnets have a north and a south pole.
2. If you put magnets north to south together, they attract each other. If you try to push north to north, or south to south together, the magnets will be repelled by each other.
We then went onto explore why the magnets repel. I asked him if he knew what an electron was, and he said yes! So I went on to explain that a magnetic field is simply the flow of electrons. All electrons have a negative charge. I drew him the picture below.
Electrons flow in the direction of the arrows. The movement of the electrons is called a magnetic field. The side of the magnet receiving electrons has a negative charge. On the opposite side of the magnet electrons are leaving, so that side has a positive charge. When positive sides (or negative sides) of two magnets are pushed together, the magnets repel each other. The reason the like charge sides repel each other is because the electrons in the magnetic fields are pushing each other away.
After my explanation of magnetism, we were ready for our STEM activity!
Halloween Ghost Magnetism Experiment
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1. Cut the pipe cleaner in half.
2. Place one of the magnets in the center of one of the halved pipe cleaner pieces. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the magnet.
3. Hot glue the pipe cleaner to the magnet.
4. Twist the pipe cleaner, then make another loop, and twist again.
5. Glue the second magnet and one end of the straw to the paper plate.
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6. Draw a ghost of the white paper, and cut it out.
7. Figure out which side of the magnet (with pipe cleaner glued to it) is repelled by the magnet glued to the paper plate.
8. Slide the pipe cleaner hole made in STEP 4 down the straw. Make sure the pipe cleaner magnet is still facing in the direction that it is repelled by the magnet on the paper plate.
9. Glue your ghost to the magnet.
10. Adjust the pipe cleaner magnet until your ghost floats!
Amazing how science can look like magic.
I hope you have a wonderful Halloween, and try adding some spooky science to the fun!
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