Designing Your ElectroMagnet
In MOVIE 1, Nancy talks from her experiences as a science
teacher who has used design activities for years. She
describes approaches she feels help create conditions
for her students achieving memorable and contextualized
learning about electricity and magnetism. She also gives
tips on equipment you will need to do the unit so that
students have enough variables to explore and optimize,
though all the while abiding by the challenge's constraints
(e.g., students get three sizes of nails to choose from,
but can only work with a limited amount of solenoid
You can have students measure the strength of their
electromagnets (EM) in different ways: by the number
of chained paper clips it raises, the number of nails
in a cup, or the distance at which a compass needle
gets deflected when current goes through the system.
In this movie, Nancy also discusses problems that students
have with fabricating the electromagnets (some don't
know how to use sandpaper to remove the wire's insulation).
A host of the misconceptions about circuits, and what
it means to have a broken or open versus closed circuit,
inevitably arise out of students' drive to make a workable
and then a notable electromagnet.