What is a magnet?
A magnet is any object that generates its own magnetic force, called a magnetic field. Despite being invisible, a magnet’s magnetic field is responsible for producing the force that attracts other objects.
The ancient Greeks discovered that some rocks, known as lodestones, produced their own magnetic field. Today magnets are specially made.
Magnets come in many shapes and sizes and can be made from different types of material but only metals are magnetic.
How do magnets work?
Magnets can attract other materials. Only metals are attracted to magnets but not all metals are. Every magnet ever made has two poles - a north and a south pole. Magnets produce lines of magnetic force which leave a magnet from its north pole and re-enters the magnet at the south pole.
When two magnets are placed together one magnet’s north pole will attract the other’s south pole. However, two north poles or two south poles will always repel each other.
Which materials are magnetic?
Some magnets are stronger than others. You can test two different types of magnets by seeing which one will hold more paperclips. Of course, not all materials are magnetic; use the activity sheet below and a bar magnet to identify which materials are magnetic and which ones aren't.ACTIVITY DOWNLOAD
Did you know that planet Earth is a big magnet?
Did you know the Earth actually produces its own magnetic field? This is because Earth’s core is mainly made up of iron, one of the best materials for making magnets. Part of the Earth’s core is continuously spinning really really fast, which creates a magnetic field and is the reason why the Earth has a North Pole and a South Pole. This is really helpful for explorers and adventurers as they can use a compass to find out which way is north and which way is south.
What is a compass?
A compass is made of a tiny magnet in the shape of a needle which is allowed to spin. Because the north pole of a compass’ magnet will always point towards the Earth’s North Pole they are really important for helping people find their way. Use the activity below to create your own compass in three easy steps.ACTIVITY DOWNLOAD