Magnets and Cars

Video length: 3:40


Part 1

Sallee: (Pointing to script at the top of the chart.) “I think the blank will attract a magnet.”

And you can tell me which parts of the car you think will attract a magnet, that the magnet will stick to…? And then we’ll go in the auto lab and test it out. So, what parts do you think that a magnet will stick to on a car? Oh, let’s see if anybody has an idea.

Sara (5.8 years old): I have an idea.

Sallee: Sara, what do you think?

Sara: (Twining the end of her hair around her finger.) I think it will stick, um … you get a couple of magnets, then you see which magnets will do…

Sallee: So you think…

Sara: Not all of them stick.

Sallee: So not all of the magnets will stick, so we should take some different kinds of magnets.

Sara nods.

Sallee: And what should we try ’em out on, on the car? What are some parts of the car we could try them on?

Alex (5.7 years old): The part that you hook a trailer on.

Sallee: A trailer hitch? We could see if we can find a trailer hitch (begins to write “trailer hitch” on the chart).

Jace (4.8 years old): I… I…, um, on that truck that, um, Sallee, I um… um, on that truck that had a flat tire, and I saw a hitch on that one that you hooked up to.

Sallee: Okay, we could look for that one.

Part 2

The teacher then took groups of four or five children into the automotive lab where they could test their predictions with an assortment of magnets on a car that we had permission to explore. They were interested in experimenting with different parts of the car and moved quickly from one part of the car to another.

At first, Nic, the youngest of the first group of four children, wanted everyone to stop and notice his discovery that the magnet would stick to the hood, but then he realized that the other children were involved in their own explorations and were moving at a quicker pace. He quickly adjusted his own pace, so he could move with the others as they tested parts of the car. The teacher stood on the periphery and recorded their findings.

Sallee: (Recording on the clipboard version of the chart.) And you said the windows were “no”?

Sara: Nope, I couldn’t feel it.

Sallee: The windows was a “no.”

McKenzie: Ha! It sticks to the car.

Sara: (Pointing into the car.) Hey lookit! There’s CDs in the car!

Nic: (Placing his magnetic wand on the hood of the car and looking at the teacher.) Mine sticks.

Jace: I’m gonna see if it sticks to the bottom of the car.

Nic: Mine sticks.

Sallee: Does it stick to the bottom of the car?

Jace: No.

Sallee: (still responding to Jace) Really?

Nic: Mine sticked.

Realizing that the teacher’s attention is focused on another child’s experiment, Nic turns toward the other children.

Jace: No. It doesn’t stick to the bottom.

McKenzie: It sticks to the trunk.

Child: Yeah!

Sallee: Now antenna is not on our list, but you could try that.

All four children try their magnets on the antenna.

Child: Yeah. I tried it.

Child: Yup. It did.

Sara: It sticks.

Sallee: It does stick? OK. (recording results on the clipboard)

Nic: Watch this, Jace. (sticks magnetic wand alongside of the antenna)

Sallee: We’re saying “yes” for antenna (recording results).

The children then tried their magnets on the front license plate before moving to the rear of the car.

Nic: (trying the magnet on the rear license plate) It sticks.

McKenzie: It sticks.

Sallee: But does it stick to the front one?

All: No.

Sallee: Why not?

Sara: Because it has plastic on it.

Part 3

Jace: (pointing to a yellowish knob that is part of the engine) I don’t know what this is.

Sara: (pointing to a magnet that has attached to another part of the engine) This sticks, this sticks.

Nic: This sticks.

McKenzie: This sticks.

Sallee: (responding to Jace and pointing to the yellowish knob) I think that’s for the oil. That’s where the oil goes.

McKenzie: There, it sticks up here.

Sara: (laughing) They stick everywhere.

Nic: They stick everywhere!

Jace: (trying the magnet on the windshield wiper) I don’t think they do…

Sallee: Do they stick to the windshield wiper?

Jace: No.

Some places the magnet would stick, and some places it wouldn’t. The children were delighted when they found a place where it would stick, and they were thoughtful when they found a place where it wouldn’t stick. When they found a place where the magnet wouldn’t stick, they would make repeated attempts, just to be sure.

Sara: (attaching a magnet to the rearview mirror) It sticks here. It sticks there.

Sallee: Oh. It sticks to the side mirror.

Sara: (nodding enthusiastically) Uh huh. (She attaches the magnet to the mirror and removes her hand.) Lookit!

Jace: Hey, Sara. Cool!

The children continued with their experiment for a while, until the teacher gathered them together to return to the classroom.

Sallee: (holding the clipboard out) We’re going to record what we found on the great big poster, and I’m going to need some volunteers to write “Yes” and “No.” Who wants to help write “Yes” and “No” on the poster?

Sara: (raising her hand) I want to do yes.

Sallee: Okay. Okay. All right, so let’s go (heading back to the classroom).

When we returned to the classroom, Sara recorded the results of two of our experiments, and then Jace took over. The children were able to test most of their predictions, and Sara discovered that all the magnets we took into the lab were attracted to the car, but only some of them would stick to the car without a person holding the magnet up. The completed poster was mounted on the bulletin board for discussion later at circle time.

This video was made in a mixed-age community college child care center serving a 2,000-square-mile area, and many parents had to travel a considerable distance to attend class. Children of students typically attended only on the days that their parents traveled to campus. Children of faculty, staff, and community members also attended our center. The project on cars provided continuity and a common frame of reference for children from diverse backgrounds who had variable attendance patterns.

The teacher took the 3- and 4-year-olds to visit the automotive lab next door to the classroom. The next day she asked the children to predict what parts of a car would attract a magnet. She showed them a chart she had made that had three columns, headed: “I think the _____ will attract a magnet,” “yes,” and “no.” As they made their predictions, the teacher wrote them in the first column, along with their name.

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