Magnetic Free Fall

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In this activity, learners use a pencil, magnets, and mat board to illustrate Newton's Second Law. Learners will observe as gravitational and magnetic forces act on two falling objects to produce an unexpected result. This activity can be used as a demonstration if the pencil device is constructed ahead of time.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per student)

  • pencil
  • 2 ceramic "donut" refrigerator magnets
  • 2 squares of mat board with 1-inch sides
  • paper punch, one-hole


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Earth's Magnetic Field
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
      • Acceleration
      • Newton's Laws
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Rathjen, Don


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2009