The Art of Science

Science is an art, and there’s so much art to be found in science! Follow the simple instructions below and use your Dowling Magnets Iron Filings 3-Pack to create your own magnetic art.

But first, a quick safety warning! The Iron Filings 3-Pack is safety tested for ages 6+, but adult supervision is required. Do not inhale or consume iron filings. Keep iron filings away from eyes. Magnets are not included in this set, but make sure the magnets you use to interact with the iron filings are age-appropriate. Keep all small, powerful magnets away from children under age 8.

Okay, let’s get started!

1. Check out the images below. What do you see? How are they the same? How are they different? What do you think caused these differences?

iron filings on magnets

2. Gather the following materials:

  • Coarse, medium, and fine iron filings
  • A few magnets (horseshoe, disc, and bar magnets are great)
  • Several pieces of paper

fine medium coarse iron filings

Looking at your magnets, try to guess which magnets, how many, and which iron filings particle sizes were used to make each of the images in step one.

Try to recreate each of the photos and see if you were right! Place a piece of paper on top of each magnet, sprinkle your chosen iron filings on top, and tap the paper until the filings fall into place.

How does it work?

Remember our blog about magnetic fields?  If you do, you will recall that you cannot see a magnetic field, but you can observe its effects.  Iron filings are small shavings of a ferromagnetic material, which means they will align themselves with a magnetic field. As the filings are scattered around the magnet, they become temporary magnets (by magnetic induction) and line up end-to-end. The filings cluster together around the poles of the magnet, indicating where the magnetic field is strongest. The lines of iron filings follow the path of the magnetic field, showing you the magnetic field pattern.

Had enough of the science?  Want to focus on the art part?

Well, you’re in luck! Have fun and express your artistic talent by stacking magnets and directing the iron filings in all sorts of original or recognizable works of art!  Here are two great works from our magnet factory elves:

iron filing flower artiron filing magnet man







Oh Yeah, and clean-up is easy peasy!

Fold your sheets of paper to collect the filings in the middle and use the paper as a funnel to pour them back into their jars and reuse for another activity like Magnets, Math, & Measurement, Oh My!, Mix It Up!, Let It Snow, and All Shook Up!

Helpful tip:  label and use a separate sheet of paper for each filing size.

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