ALEX Lesson Plan


A Train That Floats!

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Marcus Jackson
System: Chickasaw City
School: Chickasaw City Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34793


A Train That Floats!


The students will work together to design a magnetic system that can float from one point to another. The students will design a graphic organizer showing the sequence and steps needed to design a Maglev Train system by applying a scientific understanding of the forces between interacting magnets.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
4 ) Apply scientific ideas about magnets to solve a problem through an engineering design project (e.g., constructing a latch to keep a door shut, creating a device to keep two moving objects from touching each other such as a maglev system).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
P4.5: Magnets can repel or attract other magnets. They can also attract certain nonmagnetic objects at a distance.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Disciplinary Core Idea: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Identify and describe a simple design problem that can be solved by applying a scientific understanding of the forces between interacting magnets.
  • Identify and describe the scientific ideas necessary for solving the problem.
  • Identify and describe the criteria for a successful solution to the problem.
  • Identify and describe the constraints (limits) for solving the problem.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Magnet
  • Properties
  • Engineering Design Process (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve)
  • Attract
  • Repel
  • Forces
Students know:
  • Magnetic forces between a pair of objects do not require that the objects be in contact with each other.
  • The sizes of the forces in a magnetic situation depend on the properties of the objects, the distances apart, and their orientation relative to each other.
Students are able to:
  • Define a problem that can be solved with magnets.
  • Apply scientific ideas about magnets.
  • Solve a problem with scientific ideas about magnets through an engineering design project.
Students understand that:
  • Scientific discoveries about the natural world, such as magnets, can often lead to new and improved technologies, which are developed through the engineering design process.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Forces and Investigations

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.3.4- Apply scientific ideas about magnets to solve a problem. (e.g., using a magnet to pick up an object, using a magnet to push or pull an object)

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will:

  • identify and describe a simple design problem that can be solved by applying a scientific understanding of the forces between interacting magnets.
  • make a cartoon strip/graphic organizer showing the sequence of events for making a Maglev Train System.
  • construct a working model of a Maglev Train.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Maglev Kits: magnets, fasteners, one toy car or toy train, track

Technology Resources Needed:

computer(s), smartboard


  1. Familiarize yourself with the knowledge that like poles of a magnet repel and opposite poles attract. 
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Engineering Design Process.


  1. The teacher will ask the students the following questions:
    • Have you ever played with magnets?
    • Can you name something that is made with magnets?
    • If you could make an object using two magnets what would it be, what would it do, and what would it look like?
    • Have you ever ridden on a train?
    • Tell the students that they will be working in groups to design a system that uses magnets to solve a problem through an engineering design project.
    • Discuss with the students the forces between interacting magnets that like poles of a magnet repel and opposite poles attract.
  2. Introduce the following problem to the students:
    • A crowded city has decided to upgrade its railroad system. The crowded city would like to do away with its traditional railroads due to a large volume of vehicle accidents involving trains and cars. How would you design a train that could move from one place to another place without rolling on traditional rails?
    • The teacher will solicit answers from the students and accept creative responses.
    • The teacher will show the video of a Maglev train:

During Strategy Explore/Imagine/Plan/Create

  1. Tell the students that their task will be to devise a rail system that will levitate a train and keep it on the track.
  2. Using the following video to explain the Engineering Design Process: After watching the video, tell the students that they are going to design a maglev train.
  3. Introduce the term levitate.
  4. Next provide the students with a sheet of drawing paper.
    • Ask the students to fold the sheet of drawing paper into four boxes.
  5. Explain to the students that they will create a cartoon strip graphic organizer. In each box of the graphic organizer they are to describe and draw what their Maglev train would look like, how fast will it go, and add features, etc.
  6. Before the students begin their drawings, ask them to discuss within the groups how they would like to design the train.
  7. After the students discuss their plans, encourage the students to work in small groups to design a draft of what their Maglev train may look like.
  8. The students should include how the body will look, the number of magnets it will take to make the train levitate and any other creative ideas they would like to add.
  9. Once the students have completed their organizers. Allow each group time to share their plans with the other groups.
  10. The students will be separated into groups of threes, and given a Maglev kit.
    • In each kit, you should supply materials for creating a magnetic train system (magnets, fasteners, one toy car or toy train), track.
    • Record any ideas, results, and observations from the video.
  11. Place magnets in the track, all with the same face-up.
  12. Now place 4 magnets on the car with the same face down.
  13. Once you have successfully floated a train on the rail system, the next step is to propel the train down the track.
    • Working with the other members of your group, come up with a propulsion system that will propel the car down the 4 ft. track.
    • Discuss propulsion with the students.
    • Record any ideas, results, and observations.
  1. Once each group has found a system that works, each group is going to race their trains on a track provided by the teacher.
  2. After the students have tested their system, the teacher will bring the groups together and ask each group to explain how their train designs will move from one place to another place without rolling on traditional rails while staying on their new tracks.

After Strategy/Improve

  1. The students will be given time to share their models. After the students share their Maglev Models, they will be given seven minutes to discuss ways to improve their models.
  2. The teacher will give the students time to improve their Maglev models. 
  3. Relate the discussions back to the design problem/guiding question.  How would you design a train that could move from one place to another place without rolling on traditional rails? 
  4. Discuss with students how applying a scientific understanding of the forces between interacting magnets may solve the design problem.

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Assessment Strategies

The teacher will assess the students  Maglev Trains project (see attachment section)


  1. The students will work together in groups of three to create a Maglev Train comic strip.
  2. The teacher should access the following link:
  3. Once you access the link sign up for the free trial use. The teacher will need to manipulate the storyboard device, before presenting the information to the students.
  4. Once the teacher presents the information to the students encourage the students to create a beautiful storyboard/cartoon strip.


The teacher will provide assistance with helping those students needing remediation by:

  • circulating throughout the classroom as the students design their Maglev Trains.
  • providing the students with feedback as they complete their projects.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.