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Sep 01

September Week 1 To-Go Kit: Growing Crystals

Posted on September 1, 2020 at 1:22 PM by Elizabeth Land

Library to offer Activity To-Go kits

While the library has reopened to the public, our in-person programming is on hiatus. But never fear, library staff are to create To-Go Kits for those who are missing our library programs. Supplies are limited, though, so if you couldn't get to the library in time, we have you covered. Today we will cover our popular Science Kit. Check back each week for more library fun at home!

September Science Kit: Growing Crystals
Check out this list of nonfiction and fiction library books featuring crystals. Now it's time for a science experiment! Grow crystals in whatever shape you like following these simple instructions.

Supplies
Gather the following supplies from home: 

  • Measuring tablespoon
  • 1-cup measuring cup
  • A wide-mouth jar
  • 1 Pipe cleaner
  • String
  • A pencil
  • Water
  • Borax (found in most grocery stores in the laundry aisle)
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Gather all your supplies together
  2. Twist pipe cleaners into whatever shape you’d like (heart, star, circle, stick figure). You can make your shape as fancy or simple as you like. Note: Make sure your pipe cleaner shape will fit easily into your jar with plenty of space around the mouth of the jar as the shape will be slightly wider once crystals have formed on it, making it harder to remove.
  3. Tie a piece of string to one point of the shape. Tie the other end around the middle of a pencil. Hang the shape in the jar with the pencil resting across the mouth of the jar. Make sure that it hangs without touching any part of the jar. Take it out of the jar and set it aside.
  4. PARENTS PLEASE HELP WITH THIS STEP: Use a 1-cup measuring cup to count how many cups of water you need to fill your jar so that the water will completely cover your shape when it is hanging in the jar. This should be between 2-3 cups. Then pour the water into a pan and heat until boiling. Pour the hot water back into the jar. The water and jar will be very hot!
  5. For every cup of water you put in the jar, you will need around three tablespoons of Borax. Add the Borax to the water one tablespoon at a time stirring until it is dissolved. If you don’t see any tiny pieces of Borax floating around in the jar, add another tablespoon and stir. Once no more Borax will dissolve in your water you have created a saturated solution. This needs to be done while the water is hot.
  6. Hang your pipe cleaner shape in the jar so that it is completely covered in the solution. Let it sit overnight.
  7. Gently remove your now crystal-covered shape in the morning and let it dry.
  8. Optional: To make colored crystals add 5-10 drops of food coloring to the solution in step five. Remember the crystals will reflect the color of the pipe cleaner.
What happened?

All crystal making begins with a saturated solution. This is simply a solution that cannot hold any more of a material. When you stirred your borax into the hot water you were creating saturated solution. Hot water can hold more borax than cold. So as your water cooled it became supersaturated and crystals will grow in any solution that is supersaturated. As the crystals form the atoms have a certain arrangement that they will settle into creating a shape.

Just for fun try making crystals with other materials around the house. See if they make different shapes. You could use Epsom salt, not ionized table salt, alum (found in spice section) and sugar. You may need to use more material than 3 tablespoons per cup. Just keep stirring until no more will dissolve and particles are left on the bottom. For the best results you may want to separate the extra particles on the bottom from your solution by just pouring the top solution off leaving the particles behind to disregard. Have fun and keep exploring!