Howard school draws a crowd with magnetic exhibit at Port Discovery

  • Stephen Britten, 7, of Cos Cob, Conn., lifts magenetic items from the water using a magnet on the outside of a plastic cup as Miah Loveday, 5, of Severn, prepares to do the same.
Stephen Britten, 7, of Cos Cob, Conn., lifts magenetic items… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
April 19, 2011|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

Magnets are virtually everywhere. Just ask 6-year-old Madelyn Julien of Owings Mills, who can demonstrate how to use a magnet to separate iron filings from breakfast cereal.

The first-grader is among several students from Crossroads Adventist School in Howard County who are presenting an interactive exhibit, "Fun With Magnets," this week at Baltimore's Port Discovery Children's Museum.

The exhibit is part of Port Discovery's STEM Week, which each spring celebrates school courses and programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Port Discovery officials say that it provides a STEM-based, hands-on environment to help both students and educators develop skills and gain confidence in science and technology fields.

Pre-K through first-grade students from Crossroads, an Ellicott City-based, Seventh-day Adventist school, occupied stations inside the museum's Maryland Public Television Studio on Tuesday and drew crowds as they demonstrated the properties of objects that most families have stuck to their refrigerators.

"I first learned about magnets a long time ago, in kindergarten," said Madelyn, who glided a magnet over a packet of cereal flakes and water and drew small black iron filings from the flakes. She has learned that some metals are good for the body.

"This cereal has 100 percent iron, and that means that it's good," she said.

In addition to showing how magnets attract metals, the students demonstrate how to extract magnetic filings from money, and show how magnets work in toys and how the Earth is one giant magnet. They even have an exhibit about a car that runs on magnetic-based fuel. The students will be at the museum showing off their displays again on Wednesday.

For many of the exhibits, the students used neodymium magnets, and they're quick to point out that neodymiums are powerful magnets.

"They know that the power of magnets works through any kind of surface," said Princess Connor-Hawk, the student's pre-k/kindergarten teacher.

She said that the exhibit grew from a group science fair project at the school last year, the school's second year hosting a science fair. Connor-Hawk said that one of the students' parents brought the project to Port Discovery's attention.

Nadia Kennedy of Woodstock, the parent of a student, helped students Ethan and Gabriella Tucker of Elkridge demonstrate how filings can be extracted from a dollar bill that is placed in water. "That is how we know that the money is real and not counterfeit," she said.

Connor-Hawk said she knew little about magnets before "Fun with Magnets," and that she and her students experimented with what they had learned through research in making the project.

"I think generally, magnets are just one of those things that grabs you as a child," said Connor-Hawk. "It's an attention-grabber. This has excited their interests. I've given my students the materials on magnets with the intent of teaching them one thing, and they've ended up showing me other things that they can do with it."

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