• Sarah Caughron

Cool Crystals!

Easy Crystal Hearts...or snowflakes, or Coronavirus shapes, or letters

Note: Some of this content originally appeared on a website I developed and managed in 2015. Photos and content are original and will be updated in the forthcoming months.


Are you looking for some unique DIY Valentine's Day decorations? Or, are you looking to up your Valentine giving game? Or maybe you just want to dazzle the kids with your mad science skills?


If you answered YES to any of these questions, or you are just looking to try an easy activity with your child, then keep reading.


We made these crystal hearts as part of our Valentine's Day decor and even gave two of our best-looking hearts to our Pre-K classroom teachers as a unique Valentine.


When I worked at the science museum, this was one of my very favorite science camp experiments to conduct. The excitement on the camper's faces when they discovered their crystals is unforgettable! I hope you receive a similar reaction from your own budding scientist.


Ages: 3-100 (under supervision, of course! Never leave children unattended with Borax, food coloring and/or boiling water.)


Supplies:

Borax

Food coloring

Jars

Twine/String/Yarn

Stirring Stick or Spoon

Pencil or chopstick

Water

Pan or measuring cup to boil water

Pipe cleaners

Optional: Covering like Saran wrap or Press-n-Seal

Cut, fold, and bend your pipe cleaners into the desired crystal shape. Tie your pipe cleaner to a pencil, skewer, dowel, or chopstick.


Make sure that the shape of the crystal will fit into the vessel or jar you are going to make your Borax solution in. I like to use canning jars, but any container that can handle boiling water will work. You will also want to ensure that the shape can hang freely in the jar and not touch the sides or bottom of the jar.


Add Borax to boiling water.


For every cup of boiling water, you will need to add 3 tablespoons of Borax to create a very saturated solution. It's okay if some Borax doesn't dissolve and settles on the bottom of the jar.


Next, add food coloring to create the desired color of your crystal.

Pour the Borax solution into the jar and suspend the pipe cleaner shape into the solution. I also like to cover the jar with Press-n-seal. Carefully place your jar and soon-t0-be crystal in a safe corner. The least amount of disturbance this jar receives, the better!

The jars need to rest for 12-24 hours, and then you can remove the pipe cleaners and reveal your crystal-covered shapes!



We tied the finished hearts to strings and hung them from our light fixtures over our kitchen island, and it looked so festive! My son was so proud of the crystals he grew.



How it works: From Steve Spangler Science's Borax Snowflake lesson

"When you mixed the borax and water, you created a suspension of borax. A suspension is a mixture that contains solid particles large enough to settle out but almost too tiny to see. It looks murky. By mixing the borax into hot water, instead of room temperature or cold water, the borax stays suspended much longer within the water. Hot water holds more dissolved borax than cold water. Hot water molecules are moving very fast and are spread way out which makes space available for more borax to dissolve. As the solution cools, the water molecules slow down and move closer together. That means there’s less room for the dissolved borax.

As the borax molecules settle out out of the cooling suspension due to gravity, they bond with other borax molecules on nucleation sites (bumps, tiny cracks, impurities, etc. in the container) and begin to form seeds for further crystallization. You’ll see this crystallization on the bottom and sides of the container, on the string hanging from the pencil, and on the pipe cleaner arms of the snowflake. The borax continues to fall and crystalize on top of the snowflake and on top of other borax crystals until you pull it out of the water the next morning."




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