Playing with magnets is one of the earliest scientific discoveries children can unearth. Lower School science teacher Steve Jewett incorporated that “aha moment” into his classroom lesson as fifth-grade students have become immersed in the world of magnetism.
During class, students have explored the surprising properties of magnets that create a magnetic force field. To further understand the interaction between the objects and the magnetic field, Mr. Jewett welcomed Dr. Hashini Mohottala, associate professor of physics at the University of Hartford and parent of current freshman Ravindu Karunaratne, to share her knowledge of the field.
At the University of Hartford, Dr. Mohottala is an experimentalist in condensed matter physics. Her research focus is on intrinsic magnetic properties and highly correlated electronic systems such as high temperature superconductors, ferroelectrics, and magnets.
“Science is best learned with hands-on activities and experiments as it allows students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the study unit,” commented Mr. Jewett. “It enhances the students' observation ability and stimulates the idea of learning outside of a textbook.”
For her presentation, Dr. Mohottala tested the students’ knowledge on what they have been learning thus far including the different types of magnets such as bars, compass, and horseshoe magnets. As the students spoke to each type, she placed the mentioned magnet on the table to discuss its properties and how it works. With the red and blue color bar magnet, she demonstrated how magnetic poles work attracting and repelling objects. To explain magnetic fields, Dr. Mohottala displayed a glass case filled with iron and slowly slid a magnet along the side to show where the magnetic pull is the strongest by how the iron moves in the case.
"My favorite part is seeing the kids' faces lit when they first-hand experience what they have already learned in class," said Dr. Mohottala. "They are enthusiastic, fearless, and 100% ready to try new things."
The fun was not over as student volunteers helped Dr. Mohottala with her next activity. With a long copper tube as the object, two students dropped different magnets inside the tube to see which one fell the quickest. The students were amazed at the different rates the magnets fell, to which Dr. Mohottala explained copper is a conducting metal that creates its own magnetic field and gravity stopped the metals from falling quickly due to the resistant field.
“I am so grateful to Dr. Mohottala for visiting class today to show how magnetism works in a real world application,” said Mr. Jewett.