You need to login before you download the free activities. You can register here.


Physics and fashion

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Modelling
Topic: Magnetism

Fads, fashions and dramatic shifts in public opinion all appear to follow one physical law: the law of magnetism. Two French scientists were trying to explain three social trends, including the adoption of mobile phones. They theorised that people not only had their own preferences, but also tended to imitate others. They used the physics of magnets to model the consequences of imitation. With atoms representing people, they found that the model worked well as a (retrospective) predictive tool.

This activity, designed for the more able, gets students to draw diagrams representing atoms and domains in magnetic and non-magnetic material, as well as apply the model to a new situation: how a new band gets its fans, and keeps (or loses) them.

This activity was produced in partnership with the Institute of Physics.

Published: 30th June 2005
Reviews & Comments: 6

Learning objectives

Students will use domain theory to explain magnetism. They will then use the theory as an analogy for a 'real-world' trend.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

8j – magnets and electromagnets
� Explain how magnetic materials can be magnetised using a simple particle/domain model
� Distinguish between magnetic and non-magnetic materials
� Identify steel, iron (and iron oxide) as magnetic materials

Running the activity

Display page 1, which suggests a connection between magnetism, mobile phone take-up and fashion. Ask students if they can guess what the connection might be.

Display page 2. This page very briefly describes the work of the scientists who applied domain theory to trend adoption. It also includes diagrams to explain the domain theory of magnetism. This page sets the task.

Give each pair or small group a photocopy of page 3. Ask them to draw diagrams to complete column 2, in the same style as the one given. Then get them to discuss and complete column 3: applying the analogy to a new band acquiring (and losing) fans.

Once students have completed the table, ask them for their opinions of the analogy – is it a 'winner' or 'binner'? Why do they think this?

Suggested answers are given on the downloadable version of the teacher's notes.

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

Physics and fashion

Jan 12th, 2013

5 Star

Good activity,my mixed year 9 group found it very engaging

Reviewer: Aastha Sharma

Excellent Activity

Sep 9th, 2009

5 Star

Use as an introduction to Year 11 magnetism. Really got them engaged in the lesson which I'd struggled with for Year 10. Mixed ability but they all learned a lot.

Reviewer: Chris Snewin

Physics and fashion review

Aug 30th, 2009

5 Star

Great resource. Keep up the good work!

Reviewer: alon young


Jan 26th, 2009

4 Star

used this several time with year 8 and as a reveiw for bottom set year 11. works well and students always come up with new models!

Reviewer: J E Jennings


Nov 21st, 2007

5 Star

An interesting activity to model and humanise domain theory. My bright Year 8 students identified with the scenarios (all have mobiles and appreciate music)! I found the projected images useful in our discussion plenary activity which followed practical work on magnetising iron and steel.

Reviewer: Linda Brennen

Physics and fashion review

Mar 28th, 2007

3 Star

I used this with a top set year 8 class. They did not immediately understand the connection between fashion, mobile phones and magnets. But it intrigued them. It was a good way of introducing the idea of using 'model's and analogies in science. We discussed it as a class and so they understood the connection.
The activity to draw the diagrams was good and made them think about how magnets worked. It was excellent because it highlighted the difference between materials which do not usually become magnetic and materials which can be magnetised. However, the section where they had to draw the 'before' and 'after' pictures of the magnet were not so clear. As a class we decided to have 3 stages: (1) the metal before coming into contact with the magnet (2) the metal while it was in contact with the magnet and (3) the metal once the magnet had been taken away. This showed more clearly how objects can be magnetised, how permanent magnets remain magnetised and now temporary magnets return to being demagnetised.
I did not ask the students to complete the final column of the table, because I think the anaology was confusing them more than helping them.

Reviewer: Olga Papadopoulos

The upd8 store
200 lessons and assessments from as little as £4.95

Related Activities

Ideas about Science / Scientific theories

Learning Strategy / Modelling