Thursday, October 17, 2013

Preschool Lab: Magnets

A couple of weeks ago, we did our very first preschool science program! (I really meant to have this post up much sooner, but I had some technical difficulties, so here we are!)

Preschool Lab is part of our new rotation of weekly preschool programs that we're offering this fall. Each Monday morning, we hold Preschool Explorers and our topics rotate between Wee Dance (music & movement), Preschool Lab, and traditional storytime.

For our first Preschool Lab, we talked about magnets and had lots of fun exploring them at our stations. Since preschoolers learn best through hands-on activities, the bulk of our program was spent at hands-on stations. Here's how our program went:

Intro/Welcome: I take a few minutes at the beginning of each program to talk up other stuff we have going on and encourage parents to sign up for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten.

Song: My Hands Say Hello - this is our standard opener and a signal to the children that it's time to start storytime.

Rhyme: Three Little Kites - I used our three little kites prop rhyme because it uses magnets to move the kites around. After I shared the rhyme, I turned the prop around and showed them the magnets that make the kites move.

Book: What Magnets Can Do by Alan Fowler. This easy reader has a small trim size, but I read parts of it to introduce magnets to the group. We talked about the shapes magnets come in, what items magnets pick up and what they don't and what common appliances use magnets.


We spent the majority of the program on stations. I had everything set up and gave everyone a very brief intro to what activities we had available and then turned parents and kids loose to explore. Each station had a sign posted explaining the activity and suggesting some questions to explore together. I spent the time wandering around, interacting with parents and kids, showing them how to do something or asking questions.

I already had a bunch of magnets from this Science Tools Center we purchased from Lakeshore Learning last year when we started doing science programming. (Just an FYI, the magnets included in this center are not very strong.) For this program, I also purchased magnet wands (which are very strong magnets!) and iron filings (both purchased from Amazon). The rest of the supplies were things we had on hand: pipe cleaners, ziplock bags, packing tape, and various odds and ends (both magnetic and non-magnetic).

Crazy Hair: This was probably our most popular station! (Okay, it was my favorite station, too. And the best part is that all of this stuff is completely reusable.) I found the idea on Pinterest from Laughing Kids Learn.

Magnet Fishing: (This was probably the next most popular station.) I put out some bins full of STUFF and made little magnet fishing poles. I provided charts for parents to help write down things that were magnetic and things that weren't magnetic. In the bins are paper clips, pushpins, clothespins, small binder clips, small metal bars that came with the Science Center, pony beads, pom poms, feathers, toothpicks, and wiggle eyes.

Iron Filings: I put some iron filings into gallon-size plastic bags and taped the openings securely shut. Then I put out some magnets so that kids could see how they would make the filings move. The iron filings are VERY fine, so I made sure to really tape the bags and I put a warning on our sign. We didn't have any trouble with them breaking open or anything. Kids also ended up experimenting with the red and blue ends of these magnets (which demarcate the poles).

Magnet Counting: Did you know that when metal is attached to a magnet the metal becomes magnetic, too? I meant to grab more metal objects (washers, bolts, etc.) for this one and I probably should have put a picture on the sign to show families how to do it, but it worked as a counting station anyway. (Can you see the two paperclips dangling from the magnet? It's kinda hard to see; apologies for poor photo quality!)

Magnetic Letters: I commandeered our magnetic letters for the morning and encouraged kids to find the letters in their names or sort by color.

Handout: I always like to leave people with a little something to take home, some ideas to keep the learning going and do with siblings or parents who might not be able to come to the program. On suggestion from Amy Koester (The Show-Me Librarian), I included some new words (attract, repel, and magnet) with definitions from one of our children's dictionaries. I also included a few activities from the book Play & Learn with Magnets by Gayle Bittinger (Warren Pub. House, 1994) and instructions and a link to Let's Explore's magnet painting activity. Magnet painting sounds really fun, but I wasn't about to attempt it with a group at the library!

So, how did it go? It went really, really well! I had a moment of panic at the beginning of the stations thinking that everyone was going to buzz through them in 10 minutes and then look at me expectantly, but the majority of the kids spent at least 20-30 minutes at the stations. I let families explore at their own pace and leave whenever they were ready. I had a couple who stayed until the end of the hour when I really had to start cleaning up.

I had a group of 10 kids, which is smaller than I shoot for in our programs, BUT it was a nice, manageable number for my first try at preschool STEM. Later this month, we'll be exploring why leaves change color! And I'm hoping our turnout will continue to grow as we continue to offer this new program!