Mill Lane Primary

Project:  Magic Magnets
Science topic: Forces & Magnets
Participants: Year 3/4 pupils
Artist: Craig Dyson

For our Forces and Magnets topic we’re exploring magnetic fields and magnetic materials, and discovering what effect they have on each other. We will look at principles such as levitation, attraction and repelling. We will be working on making our own magnetic creations, such as magnetic ducks magically swimming on a pond, or miniature iron filings faces that can change hairstyles. We’re going to discover that magnets are magical, and although we don’t know too much about them yet we feel very excited about making art with them. Our ultimate goal is to work together to make a giant iron filings drawing that can be played with by everyone who visits the exhibition. It will be powerful and very impressive!


Session 1: 10th February 2017
Some of us were involved in the Change project last year so we have been telling our classmates all about it. We felt a mixture of excitement and curiosity today. First we learnt about our visitors (Craig Dyson the artist and Abdul Ishaq the scientist) and how they worked up to being an artist and a scientist. When they were our age, they enjoyed doing the same things as us and often mixed their two subjects without knowing it! We started the practical part of the session by learning more about magnets. We already knew some things but were amazed when we heard about the world having its own invisible magnetic force. We did some experiments, like finding out what materials are magnetic and what aren’t. We designed sculptures to construct in the next sessions – one great idea was a giant eye that opens and closes with magnetic force pushing and pulling. And we made art out of iron filings – this was challenging but with a lot of concentration we managed to do it. Next week things are getting 3D which means 3-dimensional.

“I enjoyed working with the iron filings. I used a lollypop stick and some tape to stick two magnets on. This made a magnet pencil and I dragged the iron filings around my design”

“I enjoyed doing the designs because I’m excited that they are not just drawings. They are ideas to make real things”

“When I saw the homemade compass I was bamboozled that there was an invisible magnetic force all round us that magically made the magnet floating on the paper spin around”

“Today I learnt that a 2p after 1992 is magnetic and a 2p before 1992 is not. This is because one is copper and that isn’t a magnetic material and one is steel that looks like copper but which is a magnetic material”

“I was happy to see how a new approach taking two subjects seemingly far apart and using them to complement each other really engaged children that would otherwise feel alienated” (staff member)

Session 2: 15th February 2017
Session 2 today! First we recapped on last week’s session and discussed what we now know about magnets. We talked about the activities we did and how we will make things more challenging as we go along. We were happy to hear we will keep learning new things all the time. First we started to construct our designs from last week. We made them 3D by using new sculpting techniques with masking tape and newspaper. Some people made magnetic ducks, other people made cars and even castles. We used boxes to sit them on and when we used a magnet we could move them around magically.  Our second task was to try and create our very own compass. We used water, card and a magnet and everyone made a personal compass. Finally we adapted and improved an activity from last week. Craig had experimented at home and made us some plastic iron filings frames so that we could make iron filings art with magnet pens – it worked perfectly.  

“I liked moving the iron filings with the magnet because it was fun making pictures. The iron filings would move because they are a magnetic material”

“I sculpted a tree and used a strong magnet to move the tree as it sat on top of the box. It moved because I put a secret piece of steel into my tree sculpture”

“I’ve enjoyed making a compass, it was fun. I found out that the world has a magnetic field which pulls the magnet around in the water”

“What a great session! The children can’t get enough of our topic ‘magic magnets’. All the children were so engaged and really fascinated by all the activities. They can’t wait for next week” (staff member)

Session 3: 27th February 2017
And the magic begins again! We are really enjoying our magnetic project and feel like we are moving very fast with what we are making. Based on last week’s designs one of our activities was to finish off a framework that we will use for a magnetic duck race. We learnt a professional paper maché technique and managed to cover everything we needed to. Secondly we worked on our own individual magnetic ducks. We crafted them from newspaper and ensured we all hid a small piece of magnetic metal in there (not all metals are magnetic). We used wood for the beaks and created ducks of all different sizes and shapes. Finally we painted the box mount that will display our iron filings art. We also started to design a collective piece of iron filings art like the one that will be used in the gallery when it is all finished.

“After realising the world has its own magnetic force I kept thinking I would float away because I’m not magnetic”

“I can’t believe my eyes – how does a boring piece of metal become so amazing when it has an invisible magnetic force?!”

“The duck race will only work if you put a magnetic piece in so I might leave one duck non-magnetic, just so it makes me laugh when it doesn’t move”

“Ducks and magnets are my new favourite things so magnetic ducks are amazing”

“The children are really enjoying the project so far and it’s great to see some of the less academic children getting really stuck in and being able to focus for two hours!” (staff member)

Session 4: 13th March 2017

We have been looking at the world in a very magnetic way after working in our Change project sessions – most of us have our own magnets now and check materials to see if they are attracted, or show little tricks to our friends and family like the metal penny moving magically along the table. We want people who come to see our interactive sculptures to be as amazed as we are and have just as much fun, that’s why we designed a magnetic duck race and an iron filings art board. We have not just experimented with things ourselves by making our own iron filings art or constructing a compass, but we have also created things that other people can use – it’s interactive art, and we think that’s the best way for people to learn and enjoy things. We are going to miss working in this project but are looking forward to the exhibition and hope we can do something like this again.

“That’s what I like to call magnetic magic!”

“The world is like one big magnet, iron man would stick to it”

“Today was sad but happy, sad because it’s the last session but happy because I’ve really enjoyed science and I normally don’t”

“I’m going to take all of my friends and family to see the magic magnetic ducks I have made”

“It has been great to see every student getting stuck into the project and not being afraid to be out of their comfort zone. Many of the students were enjoying their activities so much they forgot they were evidently learning some valuable skills and knowledge. We hope we can be involved in the project again next year” Staff member

A few final words from our teacher

“Children will certainly remember the definition of magnetic – next time I teach magnets I will use ducks moving round on a pond as the children were engaged and will remember this understanding of magnets! Children are also more engaged in art as they have become more confident, and they have developed skills in turn-taking, resilience and patience.” Amy Massarella & Stacey Raikes – Year 3/4 Teachers