At lower secondary level, some students begin to think of magnets ‘pulling on’ objects and to be aware of action at a distance.
Resources to Address This
The Magnetic Force and the Magnetic Field (11-14)
Source - SPT / Em01 TA02
To help solidify the idea of magnetism as a force which acts at a distance, you can use this activity to introduce the idea of a magnetic field as a region of space where forces are exerted.View Resource
Magnetic fields (14-=16)
Source - SPT / Ee03 TL07
The magnetic field fills the space around a magnet, establishing a region within which the magnet will attract or repel another magnet. This activity explores some of the issues students have with this idea.View Resource
Magnetic shielding (11-16)
Source - Practical physics/ Electromagnetism/ Permanent magnets/ ...
At a low level this activity can simply serve to emphasize the difference between magnetic and non-magnetic materials, and the idea that forces can act at a distance, even through other objects (such as plastic).
The following studies have documented this student thinking:
- Selman, R. L.; Krupa, M. P.; Stone, C. R. and Jaquette, D. S. () Concrete Operational Thought and the Emergence of the Concept of Unseen Force in Children’s Theories of Electromagnetism and Gravity. Science Education, 66 (2),
- Finley, F. N. () Evaluating instruction: The complementary use of clinical interviews. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 23 (17),