Magnetic Cereal

It's science fair time. Every year we mull over the possibilities for weeks, then hone in on one idea. Somehow most years involve soaking/growing item A in liquid B and end with me lugging a giant piece of poster board and several sloshing containers of questionable liquid across the school parking lot, usually in a high wind. But things have taken a turn in fourth grade. The expectations are higher: research, bibliographies, data charts and even judging now. And the sloshing liquid is still there, but staying at home.

My daughter picked out a really interesting project that I thought I would share. Did you know that you can pull the iron out of cereal with a magnet? I know full well that the iron in my food is the same as the iron in my cast iron skillet but the idea that we could isolate it so easily never occurred to me.  We tested 2 cereals: Total and Lucky Charms. I'm one of those people who doesn't let junky cereal like Lucky Charms in the house, but hey, it's for science.

Here's the procedure, in her words:

  1. First, crush the Total cereal with a food processor.
  1. Measure 2/3 cups of the crushed cereal and put it in a bowl.
  1. Pour two cups of water into the bowl and mix it together with a wooden spoon or your fingers.
  1. Place a light-colored magnet into the bowl of water and cereal and swirl it around gently for two minutes. The magnet has to be light because otherwise the iron can’t be seen.
  1. Next, take the magnet out and rinse it gently in the water, so the cereal comes off and only the iron remains.
  1. Capture the image of the magnet with a photograph or observations (I used photographs).
  1. Clean all equipment and repeat steps one to six with the Lucky Charms cereal instead of Total. 

The results:

Top magnet, Total - See all those cute little pieces of iron lined up nice and neat? Yum.

Bottom magnet, Lucky Charms - There actually was a tiny bit of iron, but still, I'm re-instituting my ban on junky cereal.