About the Author
Rock-It Science is a non-profit
organization dedicated to developing children's enthusiasm for science.
We accomplish this by mixing exciting activities, storytelling, and
opportunities to make discoveries in much the same way as a
presents the lessons in good humor and with some aspect of science
as a secret that's presented in a way to peak a child's curiosity.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can enroll your child in
Rock-It Science Classes.
The Fire Breathing Bunny
The Fire Breathing Bunny
By John McChesney
of Rock-It Science
A lesson on magnetics and why you put a swimming
pool at the bottom of this mountain.
I. Get Their Attention With Funny Questions
In this lesson you might gather the attention of a group of
children with some playful questions such as:
"If you pile up a whole bunch of invisible things, will
they become visible?"
"What if you throw mud on them?"
"What would you say if I told you that light can sometimes
act like mud?"
"Wouldn't it be cool if you could grab a handful of light
and throw it at an invisible thing to make it visible just as you
might throw mud on an invisible giant rabbit so that you could
"Are you ever invisible?"
"How about when it is really dark?"
"Is shining a flashlight on someone in the dark like throwing
mud on an invisible rabbit?"
"What is invisible but can actually push something?"
- (The wind?)
- (A ghost?)
- (A thought?)
- (A bad smell?)
- (A loud noise?)
- (Radio waves?)
"Can any of these pull something closer?"
"Can any of these make something spin in circles?"
"Speaking of spinning, did you know that you are made out
of invisible stuff that has even tinier invisible things spinning
These invisible things are called atoms and the tiny spinning
things are called electrons. If these tiny spinning electrons
all spin the same way they make magnetism!
Can you see magnetism? Nope! It's invisible!
A magnet traps the electrons and pushes them to spin the same
way. So you can think of a magnet as a cage holding electrons
just right so they produce an invisible force that we call
A bit of silly questioning does wonders to
bring children into the world of science. It doesn't matter
what they answer or if they even answer at all. We just want
them to wonder about their world. We then give them a story
that introduces a problem or a mystery for them to solve:
II. Tie Your Theme Into a Great Story
The Fire Breathing Bunny
Once upon a time there was a land far, far away with a mountain
known as 'Sore Legs Mountain' because anyone who tried to climb
it could hardly lift their feet off the ground as they neared the
At the bottom of the mountain there was no city, no streets, no
trees and no grass. There was just a lot of dirt and rocks and
hundreds of holes in the ground! Anyone looking into the holes
would occasionally see some eyes looking back up at them!
In this land, everyone from the smallest babies to the oldest
oldsters wore suits of armor and, as everyone was moving about,
you can imagine the squeaking, screeching, clanking and banging
sounds. Because of all that heavy armor, it was difficult to do
many jobs but luckily for the people in armor there were elves
living in the holes who took care of all their work!
All a person had to do was clang, clang, clang their way over
to any hole and shout down into the hole, "I'll have a
pepperoni pizza with extra cheese if you please!" Then as
fast as you could say "Coming right up!" a freshly
baked pizza would fly out of the hole and right into their hands.
These elves washed clothes, sang songs, and even turned snapdragon
flowers into pure gold!
Why everyone in this town wears armor!
One day Jack and Jill were making some test flights in their
rocket-powered caterpillar and crashed right into one of the
holes. No sooner had the elves made the repairs on the
rocket-powered caterpillar and popped Jack and Jill back out
of the hole when a huge lady in armor grabbed them both by the
neck hollering, "What are you two doing out here without
your armor?" Before Jack or Jill could respond, they were
thrown right back into the hole and of course, they immediately
popped back out, completely outfitted in shiny red armor.
As Jack and Jill were questioning the local people about their
strange way of living, they found out that some sort of a hideous
monster swoops down on the people when they least expect it and
swallows them whole! They wear the armor and carry sharp knives
in hopes that if they are swallowed by the monster,
they'll be able to cut themselves out.
Suddenly the huge lady started banging two armor-clad teenagers
together like cymbals! In the wink of an eye, all the people
disappeared down the holes and covered the openings with solid
rock doors. Jack and Jill were left there standing all by themselves.
They looked up to see what made everyone hide and what did they see?
. . . It was a cute bunny rabbit flying toward them on wings that
looked more like elephant's ears. As it came closer, Jill noticed
that it was wearing a black hat and had a long, curly mustache. At
the same time Jack noticed that it was a fire-breathing bunny! This
could only be one thing: the Evil Mister Fred in another of his
Jack and Jill started running as fast as they could, dodging to the
left and to the right in-between the boulders on Sore Legs Mountain.
Luckily for them, the evil Mister Fred had poor eyesight and kept
missing them with his flames. Jill made it to the top first only to
discover nothing but a sheer cliff blocking her escape. Then, before
she could even think another though, Jack ran right into her and they
both sailed right over the edge of the cliff!
Is this the end of Jack and Jill?
Will they be smashed to pieces at the bottom of the cliff?
When the evil Mister Fred flew over the top of the mountain, he saw
Jack and Jill disappear down the face of the cliff and then heard an
Evil Mister Fred smiled his evil smile, wrinkled his bunny nose, and
flew off in the best mood he'd had in years.
When Jill opened her eyes she realized she wasn't dead... paralyzed
maybe, but still alive. "Jack, are you alive?" said Jill.
"Yes indeedy," responded Jack, "But don't look down.
Somehow we've become stuck on the side of this cliff."
"This cliff is magnetic!" shouted Jill.
"Oh goody," said Jack with mock pleasure, "instead
of being instantly killed in a fall, we get to starve to death stuck
to the side of this cliff."
It wasn't long before the people in armor came looking for Jack and
Jill. All they had to do was follow the trail of Jill's infinitely
long hair. When they had found the hair leading over the edge of the
tall, tall cliff they feared the worst; but with nothing else to do
they started pulling on Jill's hair. It was noisy, hard work and after
several hours of pulling they finally had hoisted Jill back to the top
with Jack all tangled in her hair.
The battle begins against the fire-breathing bunny
Once Jack and Jill had recovered from their ordeal they came up with
a plan that would rid the people of the evil Mister Fred for good. To
make their plan work, they were going to need:
- 30 suits of regular armor stuffed with newspapers,
- 60 pieces of the magnetic rock from the cliff where Jack and Jill had become stuck,
- two suits of armor made out of aluminum instead of steel,
- and a swimming pool.
Everyone went to work
gathering the materials.
The stuffed suits of armor were set up like statues where the people
usually gathered. The pieces of magnetic rock from the cliff were
handed down to the elves in the holes. Jack and Jill put on the
And the swimming pool was set up at the bottom of the cliff.
What do you suppose they were going
to do to capture the evil Mister Fred?
Do the experiment and you'll discover what Jack and Jill had in mind:
III. The Really Cool Experiment
The Magnificence of Magnets
- Low temperature glue gun. These are available at craft shops for less than $5.00.
- Glue sticks. These are a mixture of plastic and wax that melt in the glue gun.
- Two magnets per person. We have had good results with the round ceramic magnets but since this is all about science, buy several types and shapes to see which ones work best.
- Ceramic magnets are hard like a dinner plate, reasonably strong, and inexpensive.
- Rubberized magnets are the least expensive, soft, and not very strong.
- Alnico magnets are an alloy of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt. They are hard, costly, and weak.
- Rare earth magnets made from cobalt and samarium or niobium are very expensive, incredibly strong, and can be dangerous if they slap together suddenly (sharp pieces go flying!)
- Small colorful junk. Your budding scientists are going to create a weird creature by gluing this stuff together, so you might include things like buttons for eyes, cloth that can be rolled to become a body, pipe cleaners for antennas, etc.
- Heavy white paper or cardboard. Something like an extra large, undivided paper plate, poster board, or a lid from a white cardboard box.
- Marker pens. Or crayons that will be used to draw on the cardboard
- Play with the magnets:
Create a weird creature by gluing together the materials.
Glue one magnet to the bottom of the creature.
Draw a place for your creature to live on the cardboard. Include something that your creature likes to drink, something it likes to eat, someplace safe for it to sleep, and something that might eat it!
Now set your creature on your cardboard and make it move with another magnet underneath the cardboard.
- Find some things that the magnets will stick to.
- Find some things that the magnets won't stick to (don't let them try to put magnets on a computer).
- Set one on top of a table and try to make it move with another under the table.
- Try to push one magnet with the other but don't let them touch!
- Try to make magnet ear rings.
- If you have a round one, try to make it roll in a straight line
Conclusion: What's The Point?
Most educators want students to be able to recite concepts
but we feel that it is far more important to train students to be creative,
take the time to make observations, and put them into words.
In this experiment the students have two magnets so they might make the
following observations and discoveries:
- The magnets can stick to each other, but they aren't sticky.
- The magnets can push on each other.
- A magnet doesn't stick to all metals.
- A magnet won't stick to: pennies, soda cans, aluminum foil or plastic.
- A magnet will stick to: a bicycle, nails, the refrigerator, and anything made of iron.
- One magnet under a plate can move another on top.
- A magnet can change the color of a color TV (do this with one you don't care about!)
- A strong magnet can distort the picture on a TV.
- If you leave a strong magnet on a video or cassette tape, it will erase part of it.
- A magnet can erase information on a floppy disk (if you can still find one!).
- A round magnet is difficult to roll in a straight line.
Each of these observations or discoveries could be the subject
of a science fair project and collectively, they lead the student
to an understanding of the principles of magnetism and some fun
How does the story end?
Jack and Jill help the people in the village set up the stuffed
suits of armor to look like real people.
The only problem was that they didn't move. So Jack and Jill
did something just like you: They glued a piece of magnet to
the feet of the suits of armor and then they asked the elves
to run through the tunnels with another magnet to make the
suits of armor move.
When the evil Mister Fred, the flying, fire-breathing bunny,
came swooping down to terrorize the village, he swallowed some
suits of armor whole. Then, Jack and Jill, wearing their
aluminum suits of armor, popped up out of one
of the holes and ran like Jack and Jill rabbits as fast as they
could go up Sore Legs Mountain, screaming and yelling to attract
evil Mister Fred's attention.
With the evil Mister Fred close on their tails, Jack and Jill
leaped over the cliff!
Guess what happened this time?
Yes, Jack and Jill slowed down as they went past the magnetic
portion of the cliff, but their aluminum wasn't nearly as
"attractive" to the magnetic cliff as the steel had
been. They landed safely in the swimming pool but, because he
had swallowed several suits of armor whole, the fire-breathing
bunny Mister Fred stuck to the magnetic side of the cliffs!
Almost everyone lived happily ever after, and even though the
fire-breathing bunny Mister Fred was more unhappy than happy,
he was useful for roasting turkeys during the Thanksgiving
© 2007, Rock-It Science and John McChesney, All Rights Reserved