What is a Magnetic Field? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

You may know a lot about magnetic materials, but do you know about magnetic fields? In this lesson, explore how and why magnetic fields are created, and where these fascinating fields can be found.

It's Magnetic

If you go into your kitchen, it's very likely that you have things posted on your refrigerator with magnets. You probably even know that there are different materials, like iron and nickel, that can be magnetic. But do you know about something called magnetic fields? Let's find out what a magnetic field is and learn some cool ways that they're used by scientists.

Field Lines

Let's say that you have two magnetic pieces of metal on a table. Something will happen when you move these pieces close to each other. They will either be attracted to each other and come together or they will repel and push each other away. This is thanks to a magnetic field, which is a surrounding area where magnetic forces occur. This area is made of field lines, which are invisible lines that extend from the magnet and either pull in another magnetic object or repel it. Although the lines are invisible, the field is where a person can observe a magnet's power.

Small iron shavings are used to show magnetic fields that surround magnets.

Learning About Magnetic Fields

Scientists have been studying magnets for thousands of years, as far back as the ancient Greeks! Throughout the centuries, scientists began to learn more about magnetic fields. One scientist well-known for his work with magnetic fields was a Frenchman named Charles-Augustin de Coulomb. He lived in the 1700s and created an invention that would measure electrical forces.

French scientist Coulomb studied electrical and magnetic forces.

His study of electricity led him to explore and eventually develop a law on magnetic attraction and repulsion. Coulomb's work inspired a French mathematician, Siméon-Denis Poisson, to look at the mathematics behind magnetic forces. And thanks to all of these scholars who studied magnetic fields, they laid the foundation for you to now enjoy inventions like cell phones and televisions.

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