Back to School, With Magnets!

About: I'm a Portuguese stone sculptor. For years I have been addicted to working with stone, but lately, I started to diversify my materials and techniques. The main reason being the slowness of stonework. Becaus...

Everybody likes magnets, right? Especially kids. We love how magnets get attracted when near one another and the sound they do when they snap together. If you turn them around they repel each other, making everything even more interesting.

My workshop is full of those powerful but small-sized neodymium magnets. They are used to hang everything and have different sizes for different sized tools. I also like to play with the shapes. Circular, cylindrical, spherical and square are what I use most. The size of the magnet defines its power. In my workshop, the biggest one is probably 1" or less, and that's for the power tools. For plyers or screwdrivers, you can use 1/2 inch and even smaller ones.

I usually glue the magnets to the tools in places that won't get in the way while I work. For some objects, I use hot glue and for things that get hot, you can use epoxy, as it won't melt and will get harder with heat. Then I fix a magnetic bar to the wall and stick all my tools in there.

You can also buy magnetic adhesive tape, adhesive dots, foil, paint, boards, you name it. So, for this instructable, I'm going to show you how to organize the classroom with magnets. It is an inexpensive and easy project and it will be a joy when kids start interacting with magnets while working.

ATTENTION: Please be aware that using too powerful magnets (the big ones) can result in severe injury because of the strength they possess while getting attracted. There are cases of accidents with these big neodymium ones and the pictures aren't pretty. We won't be using anything a six-year-old couldn't handle safely, anyway.

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Step 1: Types of Magnets

There are three main types of magnets: temporary, permanent, and electromagnets.
Temporary: Some iron and iron alloys can be easily magnetized by even a weak magnetic field. However, when the magnetic field is removed, the object gradually loses its magnetism.

Permanent: Examples are alnico (Aluminum Nickel Cobalt alloy) and ferrites (ceramic-like material that is made from a mix of iron oxides with nickel, strontium, or cobalt). Once they are magnetized, these objects do not easily lose their magnetism.

Electromagnets: These are used when a very strong magnet is necessary. Electromagnets are made by placing a metal core inside a coil of wire that is carrying an electrical current. The electricity going through the wire produces a magnetic field. While the electric current is flowing, the core acts as a strong magnet. Computers, TVs, and electric motors use electromagnets.

The common types of material that permanent magnets are made with are ceramic, alnico, and neodymium. Ceramic magnets are strong and work well for most experiments. Alnico magnets are even stronger and work very well for science experiments, although they are more expensive than ceramic magnets. Neodymium magnets are so strong that one a half-inch in diameter can lift several pounds of ferromagnetic objects. They are the most expensive of these three magnet types.

Step 2: Magnetic Bars or Strips

These are used to hold chef knives on restaurant kitchens, but they are also great for attaching scissors and other metallic stuff in the classroom. You can glue small magnets to pens and markers, rulers and brushes and stick them to these strips, avoiding cluttering the tables with pencil cups and stray materials, and losing or stepping on things.

Another use for these bars is to screw one on the underside of a shelf to hold paint bottles and jugs with paper clips, clothes pegs, glitter, etc. If the jars don't have ferrous metal lids you'll have to glue a magnet on the lid to fix them on the magnetic bar. These bars or strips are also great for organizing computer cables. just roll a little of metallic wire at the end of the cable, near the plug and it will stick to the magnetic strip. This alone gets rid of the clutter cables create. If you put some colored stickers on the cables with the student's names, everyone will know which is theirs.

Ferrous metal cans are good to store pencils, pens, and markers when attached to these bars. These bars can be painted and will not lose their magnetic power. You could have one bar per student and they will hold all their supplies and tools. It's advisable to paint the cans or they will rust which is also a good way to color code the containers.

If you glue one of this strips to a piece of wood you'll end up with a nice tool to catch all those scattered paper clips on the floor. Items that got magnets glued to them don't need magnetic bars or strips, they can be attached to simple steel bars. With the magnetic bars, the pull is stronger. Test before, so you can buy the right sized magnets and strips.

Step 3: Magnetic Boards

Magnetic boards are usually used to write and hold papers with magnets. But we can use them in other ways. We could, for instance, glue magnets to tissue boxes and stick them on the board.
The North American states or other countries can be cut from a map and glued to magnetic foil to create a puzzle that can be mounted on the magnetic board. Or you can just simply cut the pieces in cardboard and stick a dot magnet on the back.

Step 4: Magnetic Hooks

You can stick magnetic hooks to a magnetic bar to hang coats and plastic containers or bags with supplies. These hooks have the advantage of being easily repositioned. As with all the rest, they can also be color-coded.
These hooks are also a great way to hold duct tape rolls or anything that has a hole or is donut-shaped.

Step 5: Magnetic Dots

Use magnetic dots if you want to stick lesson planners to the magnetic board. If the dots are painted you can write on them with washable or permanent markers. This could be used to control absences, hall passes, lunchtimes, assignments, etc.
If you glue one of these circular or square magnets to metallic clamps you have an extra way of suspending bags with crayons, drying watercolor paintings or hold pieces of string and rubber bands. Rubbers and pencil sharpeners, because of their small size easily get lost. Not anymore. You can glue a very small magnet to them and stick them to a metallic pencil cup over the table. You can attach a couple of these magnetic dots to drawers so they won't be left open so easily, avoiding clutter and accidents.

Step 6: Final Thoughts

As a final word, remember, not everything is suitable to be used near magnets. It's the case of memory and credit cards and sensitive electronic devices. and also TV screens and computer monitors as they will get the images distorted by the magnetic fields (although not permanently). As a safety precaution place these devices at 4" or bigger distances from the magnets. Among other devices, magnets are also capable of affecting heart pacemakers.

Also, avoid long-term contact with neodymium magnets as they are nickel platted and you could develop nickel allergy. That's not very good for handling money, right? That's why the painted or plastic coated ones are better for the school environment. Also, the plastic-coated magnets are safer to use because they don't break as easily as the unprotected ones.

All gluing and handling of magnets should be made by an adult, especially if children are very young and could easily swallow a magnet or a broken piece. Don't try to drill a hole in a magnet thinking you can use a screw to fix it anywhere. This can cause the magnet to ignite, as the dust created is highly flammable. There are already drilled magnets for sale.

Be careful while storing magnets as they can get attached to ferrous stuff like furniture legs and cloths buttons. I usually store them in a jug. Also, avoid storing and using magnets in moisty or acid environments as they will deteriorate. To separate two magnets is always easier to slide them than to try to lift the border.

Although there are dangers in handling magnets, millions of people worldwide wear neodymium magnets to promote health and well-being. We have found no evidence at all of the detrimental effects of neodymium magnets on people or animals – many people actually believe that magnets improve health and accelerate healing!

Step 7: Bonus Step: Fun and Games

Although this tutorial was written within the boundaries of classroom organization, we didn't even touch the most important aspects of magnets: Having fun while learning. If you search Youtube, you'll find an extensive array of scientific experiments conducted using magnets. In this field, there's also a lot you can do with electromagnets. TVs, electric engines and motors, radios and computers, all make great use of this kind of magnets.
Besides the science element, all kinds of fun toys and games could be made from magnets. As I stated before, they are great to make puzzles, for instance. Google, Youtube, and Pinterest are always a good source of inspiration. Here are some of the thousands of links of fun things you can do with magnets (I love ferrofluid magnetic putty!):

I hope this instructable has "attracted" your attention. Bye.

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