Lesson Plan: May the Force Be with You

Students will engage in a STEM activity where they will build a magnetic mixer device that will attract lead-based items.

AuthorGrade LevelContent Area
Vanessa HairstonFourth GradeScience & STEM



4.P.1 Explain how various forces affect the motion of an object.

4.P.1.1 Explain how magnets interact with all things made of iron and with other magnets to produce motion without touching them.

4.P.1.2 Explain how electrically charged objects push or pull on other electrically charged objects and produce motion.

Time Needed

Day 1- 60 minutes

Day 2 -60 minutes

Day 3- 60 minutes

Essential Questions

What is electromagnetism?

If we can’t see a force, how do we know it’s there?

How do electromagnetic forces create a push or pull?


Before the initial lesson, students should have an understanding of electromagnetism, and know that there is an invisible force that cannot be seen, but is evidenced by the creation of a push or pull. The purpose of this lesson is for students to build a STEM design that will allow them to explore and manipulate the magnetic force of a magnet on an iron material that produces motion.

Curriculum Overview

Students will engage in a STEM activity that will allow them to connect the processes of magnetism to the real world. Students will build on their experience of magnets attracting iron objects. Success of this exploration will be driven by students understanding that magnets have two different poles–north and south poles; like poles repel and opposite poles attract. Student groups will build a simple mixer that funnels gravel and dye material mixed with iron objects. Students will design the mixer in such a way that will allow magnets to attract the iron objects before filtering through their mixers. Students will plan, implement, revise, and reimplement their investigation for success. This lesson will also link learning to related social-emotional development that is present in the dynamics of individual and group work linked to the real world in a professional setting.


  • clear plastic cups
  • small sized magnets
  • tap
  • box cutters 
  • 1-2 liter bottles
  • 8-oz drinking bottles
  •  8×10” construction paper
  • small-sized gravel pieces mixed with small, iron-based paper clips, nails, thumb tacks, etc.
  • pencil and colored pencils
  • clear plastic cups
  • small Dixie cups
  • planning sheet
  • Chart Paper

Teacher Notes

  • Fill Dixie cups with gravel and iron-based pieces. Students will use this mixture to pour through their mixer design.
  • Use box cutters upon student request to cut plastic liter bottles. (You may need additional adult assistance for support with this part of the investigation.)
  • The mixer should be designed so that contents can be deposited or funneled into a cup.
  • Display all possible materials on a table for students to view when selecting for their designs.
  • Before beginning, determine the best storage location for each group’s materials.
  • Select student pairs and groups for the investigation.

Day 1

Day 1

Part 1: What’s the Attraction?

Activating Prior Knowledge 

  • Review the interaction of magnets with iron and non-iron objects, including the two poles of magnets. As a rule of thumb, magnets attract iron and some steel objects. Magnets can repel and attract. As a result, this produces motion.
  • Introduce CornerStone Building Brands video as link to application of magnets to the real world; see Magnets in the Workplace

Part 2: Forcing Ahead

  • Introduce CornerStone Building Brands video mixer/blender video; see Shane’s Mixer Explanation
  • Focus on the Mixer shown in the video; see images to assist with classroom implementation.
  • Explain how the mixer works when color concentrates and resin pieces are added at the top of the machine. As materials are added from the top of the machine, they mix, while the magnet attracts foreign iron objects before it funnels through at the bottom. Resin and color concentrate materials are heated, and pushed into molds for assembly. 
  • Discuss the importance as to why foreign objects should be extracted. Foreign objects such as iron and metal can damage the machines.
  • Tell students that their goal is to build a mixer using the materials selected to emulate the mixer found in the video and image. The mixer must contain a magnet or magnets that attract the majority of the iron pieces.
  • Describe, explain, and show the materials to all students. 

Embed the social emotional component during this part of the lesson: The objective of the social emotional learning component is to demonstrate to students that the same strategies they are learning in school is relatable to the real world in working relationships, whether transitioning to a new learning environment working with new peer groups or using effective strategies to overcome a disability or intimidation of trying something new, solving problems or completing a task.

  • Introduce the video, Everyone Has Their Own Power.  After watching the video, discuss how the three individuals uniquely performed the same task to get the job completed. Explain to students that this is similar to what we will be doing in our groups. Every group has the same task, but they will not look the same. Explain that every group is unique and is creative in its own way, and there isn’t a wrong or right way to perform the task. However, we want to keep efficiency in mind.
  • Allow student groups 5-7 minutes to think about what resources they would like to use. 
  • Explain to students that they will select their materials and plan on paper how their mixer will look and operate on the planning sheet; see Mixer Planning Sheet.
  • Allow students an additional 5-7 minutes to discuss how they will design their mixer.
  • Collect Mixer Planning Sheets at the end of the lesson.

Day 2

Part 3: Forces Attract

Activating Prior Knowledge

  • Review what was learned the prior day, and replay Shane’s Blender/Mixer Explanation video as a refresher.
  • Return students’ Mixer Planning Sheets from the prior lesson, and allow student groups to collect their materials to begin the investigation.
  • Allow students time to build their design. Students will practice their design to determine if their mixer/magnet will attract the iron pieces.

Wrap Up & Action

Students answer the attached questions within their groups. Then, groups compare answers as the teacher facilitates a discussion.

Day 3

Part 4: Forces Unite Strong

Students will use their completed questions from the prior day and reflections to redesign and test their inventions for improvement.


ReadWorks, “The Sad Tale of the Lonely Magnet

This resource is optional. Please note that a subscription required to view.

About the Author

Vanessa Meeks Hairston is a 2021-2022 Kenan Fellow. She is an elementary school teacher in Gaston County. This is her 20th year teaching.

About the Fellowship

CornerStone Building Brands is a leader in manufacturing various residential and commercial products for the outside of homes such as shutters, siding, and gable vents to name a few. My internship with CornerStone involved collaborating with heads of key departments; EHS (Environmental Health and Safety, Human Resources, Quality Distribution, Production/Operations, Maintenance and Finance. During my three-week internship, I learned the systems involved in making manufacturing work, which includes a strong connection to human capital.

My internship with Cornerstone Building Brands was a great educational experience. I quickly learned that I was afforded a unique opportunity to visibly see what I teach in the classroom at work. Many of the machines used for manufacturing require the use of magnetic energy. Learning how operators used magnets in this forum offered an interesting avenue to present the magnetism unit to my students. By helping students to understand one of the basic uses of magnets at CornerStone, I was able to replicate this as a valuable learning experience in my classroom.

Student Resources