A short experiment to look at what magnetic poles are and how magnets attract and repel each other.


  • Bar magnets
  • Button magnets
  • Magnetic pole marbles
  • Range of testing materials – wood, plastic, metal etc.
  • Iron fillings
  • Paper
  • Image of the Earth showing North and South Pole
  • Recording sheet
  • Ruler

Programmes of Study:


Working scientifically Lower KS2

  • Make systematic and careful observations

Forces and magnets – Year 3

  • Observe how magnets attract or repel each other and attract some materials and not others
  • Describe magnets as having two poles
  • Predict whether two magnets will attract or repel each other, depending on which poles are facing.


  1. Split the children into groups and provide each group with a range of magnets and a range of materials
  2. Let the children play with the magnets and the testing materials and allow them to recap on previous learning ie magnets have the ability to attract ferrous metals. Get the children to feed this back.
  3. Show an image of the Earth and ask the children to identify the two points on the globe ie North and South Pole. Discus what these terms mean and relate to magnetic field.
  4. Demonstrate magnetic fields using a piece of plain white paper with iron filings placed on top, carefully lift the paper and place on top of a bar magnet. Tap the paper gently and the iron filings will start to fall into the shape of the magnetic field of the magnet. Ask the children to recreate this experiment on their tables and record their findings via drawings.
  5. Ask the children to explore how magnetic poles react to each other. What happens when you try and place magnets together in different formations ie north pole to north pole or south pole to north pole. Create a recording sheet for the children to test and record what happens
  6. Ask the children to predict what will happen if they were to repeat the experiment with different types of magnets. Test their theories, does it make a difference to the outcome?
  7. Ask the children to feedback what they have found out. Discuss their findings and introduce the terms attract and repel if they have not been used already.
  8. Add the terminology to the recording sheet.

Extension Ideas:

  • What happens to the magnetic field if you place another magnet close to it? Try opposing poles close together but far enough apart to not attract.
  • Does the attract/repel force work the same when you use a mix of magnets ie bar magnet with a button magnet or a pole magnet marble?
  • Can we measure the strength of the magnetic field of magnets? Using a ruler measure how far magnets push each other away from each other. Does the size of the magnets affect the size/strength of the repulsion?
  • How can you make sure that the test is as fair as possible?

Top Tips:

  • Keep the bar magnets away from the iron fillings – you might want to wrap the magnets in something – cling-film or paper as iron fillings are very difficult to remove from a magnet.
  • Remember to store your magnets correctly, if stored incorrectly they can become demagnetised. Always store magnets with opposing poles next to each other.