The boys love both magnets and ‘Blaze and the Monster Machines’, so Ioan suggested combining them both in a play activity.

Blaze and the Monster Machines is an American television series about Blaze, a red monster truck, and his human driver and mechanic, Gabby. Their monster truck friends include, Starla, Stripes, Zeg and Darington. Each episode also features their rival, Crusher, a sneaky blue truck who cheats in races. Crusher is always accompanied by a small green truck named Pickle.

Blaze and his friends have to get past the obstacles Crusher puts in their way, by solving problems, based on various STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts. In today’s activity, Ioan suggested they use magnets to help Blaze get past the obstacles.

Method

Setting up the race course

First, Ioan and Finn went on a hunt round the house to find magnetic objects, that Crusher could use as obstacles to slow down Blaze, Zeg and Starla.

They grouped together a variety of everyday materials that were attracted to a magnet. They found Daddy’s office was a particularly good place to hunt, finding that split pins, paper clips, pipe cleaners and bulldog clips were all magnetic. Ioan explained to Finn, “It’s because they are all metal. Let’s sing the Blaze song to remember which metals are magnetic…” I was absolutely gobsmacked when they came up with iron, cobalt and nickel!

Next, Ioan drew their race track on the tuff tray, using the bath crayons.

Tyre bursting nail trap

He came up with Crusher’s first obstacle. He scattered ‘nails’ (split pins) on the track in his ‘tyre bursting nail trap’. Crusher was hoping to pop Blaze, Zeg and Starla’s tyres.

Paper Clip Rain

Their next obstacle was some paper clip rain. Originally they put the paper clips on the tray, but after some discussion, they decided their rain should fall on top of the monster trucks, moving it to a bowl instead.

Crusher used his rain machine to make paper clip rain, but Starla used a magnet to clear the track.

Rainbow Swamp

Finn spelt ‘swamp’ as ‘swonmp‘. He’s only 4 and enjoys writing independently, so I let him spell the words phonetically, not worrying about correcting any spelling mistakes.

Finn used some of the magnetic counters, from his ‘Super Magnet Lab’ to make a rainbow swamp.

He loves these counters so much, that he kept picking them up and just running them through his fingers.

Then once again, Blaze and his friends used their magnets to clear the way.

Snake Pit

As Ioan was writing the label for the snake pit, he pointed out the split digraph in snake was a-e. He explains all about split digraphs in ‘Phonics Splat’.

They enjoyed making snakes by bending pipe cleaners, then using their Magnets to help Blaze, Starla and Zeg.

Snapping Snapping Crocodiles

Finny wrote the word ‘crocodile’ first.

Again, I left the spelling, but I asked him if he could see what a letter that was written back to front. Finn swapped his ‘l’ to face the opposite direction. Ioan also advised him that the dot on his ‘i’ should be dot, not a circle. He also decided to add ‘snapping snapping’ to describe his crocodiles, because, “I’m sure there are some friendly crocodiles, but Crusher is using them as an obstacle to stop Blaze, so he probably wouldn’t want the friendly kind!”

Rolling boulders

At first this area was going to be called ‘Boulder Canyon’, but instead they decided to describe what the boulders did. Ioan explained to me, “You could have boulders that don’t move and then they wouldn’t be much of a problem, it’s only when they roll they become an obstacle.”

They worked as a team to clear the boulders, needing both of their magnetic wands working together, to clear the string of boulders.

Snap trap

The snap trap was made up of pairs of magnets. “Crusher knows that magnets attract to each other, so he’s hoping to snap Blaze in between the magnets, trapping him and his friends.”

Videos of Blaze, Zeg and Starla completing the course

Crusher setting up his first trap.

Pickle questioning Crusher about whether he should be cheating, Zeg explaining how to get past the nails and Crusher planning his next obstacle.

Next was the rain.

Crusher trying to slow them down with his rainbow swamp, snake pit, snapping crocodiles, rolling boulders and snap trap obstacles.

A defeated Crusher, finding his plan backfiring.

Blaze songs

Every Blaze episode has a song with a STEM theme. The 12th episode of Season One is called, ‘The Mystery Bandit‘ and has this song about magnets.

‘Magnets’ Lyrics

Magnets pick up some kinds of metal

Every magnet has a magnetic field
If a metal is in its range
Magnets attract, no going back

Magnets pick up some kinds of metal
Some are big, some are little
But they all have a pull, pull, pull
Magnets pick up some kinds of metal
Iron, cobalt or nickle
Don’t ever let go, go, go
They pull, pull, pull
They’re magnets

They have sung this on loop all day whilst they played:

They also enjoyed listening to the other songs on the Blaze soundtrack, whilst playing with their magnets.

DfES Outcomes for EYFS and National Curriculum (2013)

Science Year 3 programme of study

Forces and magnets

• observe how magnets attract or repel each other and attract some materials and not others
• compare and group together a variety of everyday materials on the basis of whether they are attracted to a magnet, and identify some magnetic materials