Magnetic Lines of Force

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
With a magnet, iron fillings, and a bottle, you can create a cool demonstration about magnetic lines of force: the fillings will arrange themselves within the magnet's magnetic field.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • A 16-ounce (0.5-liter) plastic water bottle or soda bottle
  • Iron filings (available at science museums or from scientific suppliers, or you can use magnetic sand—black sand—collected by dragging a magnet through iron-rich beach sand)
  • A plastic test tube that fits into the mouth of the bottle and is about 75% as long as the bottle is tall
  • Masking tape
  • A cow magnet or other cylindrical magnet that fits into the plastic tube (a stack of button magnets will also work)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electromagnetic Fields
      • Earth's Magnetic Field
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access