Tenessee STEM Innovation Network Keri Randolph
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


Average Rating

3 (3 reviews)

5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Most Recent Review

3 Link found?

I believe this is where the activity is found now: http://www.tvastem.com/pbl/alternative-energy/


A 5-E lesson about electromagnets.  Students will do an activity to introduce them to the link between electricity and magnetism.  They then test variables that they believe may affect the strength of electromagnets.  The “Elaboration” section includes options for either an engineering project or a research project.  Background information, and links to a digital model, can be found in the Elaboration section as well.  It is recommended that teachers use the “If you have time” suggestions in the lesson plan, as these suggestions offer the best 3-dimensional learning opportunities.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-PS2-3 Ask questions about data to determine the factors that affect the strength of electric and magnetic forces.

Clarification Statement: Examples of devices that use electric and magnetic forces could include electromagnets, electric motors, or generators. Examples of data could include the effect of the number of turns of wire on the strength of an electromagnet, or the effect of increasing the number or strength of magnets on the speed of an electric motor.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment about questions that require quantitative answers is limited to proportional reasoning and algebraic thinking.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
During the Exploration II and Explanation II portions of the lesson, students investigate variables that affect the strength of an electromagnet, and come up with explanations for why those variables affected the strength. The lesson assessment (“Evaluation” section) requires students to either run an experiment, or design it and make predictions, based on changing a variable that was not tested during the “Exploration” section of the lesson.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
When following the suggestions in the “If You Have Time” box, the lesson involves students sharing data and discovering issues with their experimental designs, followed by redesigning their experiments and re-collecting data.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson includes student-designed experiments as an “if you have time” option to replace a more teacher-designed experiment. It is recommended that the suggestions in that “If You Have Time” box be followed in order to fully address this practice. The teacher-led design would still involve identifying variables and controls, but students will be guided in the creation of a data table, and will be assigned a variable and controls, rather than planning their own investigations. The teacher-led design could be a good jumping-off point for scaffolding or differentiating the lesson, depending on students’ familiarity, and ability, with designing and running their own experiments.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The teacher leads a discussion with students about why each of their tested variables had the effect it had on the strength of the electromagnetic force. The teacher will need to change wording a bit - the lesson does not use the word “force”. Try replacing “stronger” with “exerts a greater force”.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The discussion in Explanation II gets at this idea, but does not spell it out. A teacher can strengthen the link to this CCC by giving students access to information about what “electricity” is doing on an atomic scale, then asking students to refer to that information when discussing the effect that different variables had on the strength of the electromagnet’s force. The teacher should also incorporate the words “function” and “analyze” into the discussion, as the discussion script is about these things, but does not use these terms. Links in the “Elaboration” section provide models and opportunities for visualization of how electromagnetism works.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson centers around the phenomenon of electromagnets and what they do. The students are asked to use scientific practices to discover a core idea. The cross-cutting concept is embedded in the lesson.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson engages and motivates students through animation, hands-on discovery, and, in the “Elaboration” section, a choice of real-world applications. The lesson plan includes links to further information . When using the “If You Have Time” option, students have opportunities to give and receive feedback, helping them to clarify and revise their ideas. The “plain” (not “If You Have Time”) option may be used to assist students who need extra help with the idea of experimental design. The “Elaboration” options allow motivated students to delve deeper into the topic.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson describes, but does not provide, methods for monitoring student progress. For example, it refers to a Predict-Observe-Explain sheet, but does not provide the sheet or instructions (it can be inferred that the sheet is to be used with an activity involving an electromagnet and a compass). The lesson does include several points for check-ins, questions to ask students/groups, and discussion points. These address not only the core ideas about electromagnets, but also important points about experimental design, and about how the structure of an electromagnet affects its function. A description of a final assessment is also included in the lesson, though it does not include a scoring guide or rubric.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The lesson does not involve interactive computer technology. Some of the optional links in the "Elaboration" section lead to on-line simulations and models.