Magnets on the Trash Can

It’s a regular occurrence to find magnets on top of our classroom’s trash can. Sometimes they are arranged in rainbow order, sometimes they are grouped at various points on the lid. I often have to stop kind visitors who want to help by returning the magnets to the whiteboard.

“The Kindergartners put them there.” I comment. “When I need them, I take them, but for now, I let the Kindergartners store them on the trash can lid.”

Let me explain. The Kindergartners are exploring many things by having the magnets on the trash can lid rather than in their place on the whiteboard.

  • PHYSICS and ENGINEERING – How many magnets do you need to raise the lid without touching the lid or the foot pedal? Where is the best spot on the lid to put the magnets? What if you have a group that works and you separate the group into two smaller groups?
  • COLOR – What is the rainbow order? Where do the various shades fit in?
  • MAGNETIC POLES and PROPERTIES – Why don’t these two magnets stick together? Can I get the magnets to attract one another through my finger? Through all my fingers? What exactly are poles of a magnet?
  • COLLABORATION, SHARING, and PROBLEM SOLVING – “We need more magnets, Miss James!” they say. “That’s all we have right now. The others are holding up your math work.” A little while later, several Kindergartners are gathered around the whiteboard, gently moving magnets so that papers share the magnets thereby freeing some for their use!

I have no idea what new ideas and exploration may happen after winter break, but I’m excited to find out. I have other small magnetic bits, I may add them to the mix. We shall see.