Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Scientific snowflakes!

OK I can't take credit for thinking this one up all on my much as I would like was actually a project that our local science education center posted on facebook. 

However.  Since we aren't likely to get any REAL snowflakes around here any time soon...and since we JUST studied the formation of crystals a short while ago and made some really cool crystals from alum...well...naturally I had to jump on this one.  Because snowflake crystals to hang on the Christmas tree = all kinds of awesome in my book.

This was a very simple science project/craft and little ones would be capable of doing it, too...but you'd definitely want to see about the boiling water parts yourself!

First, gather all of your ingredients.  You'll need some Borax, a pot of water, a few mason jars or mayonnaise jars, pencils, pipe cleaners and string or wire.  Please ignore the fact that my mason jar is crusted up with crystals on the bottom already.  We made crystals last night and they're kind of hard to rinse out of the jar. 

Bring the water in the pot to boiling.  

While you're waiting for the water to boil, have the kids cut and twist the pipe cleaners into beautiful snowflake designs and shapes.  Like so: 

 Or, umm...maybe your children are like mine and prefer to make strange flowery shapes and their own initials instead.  Whatever you prefer. 

When the water comes to a boil, turn off the burner and carefully pour Borax into the water.  As you pour, stir constantly to dissolve the Borax powder.  You want to supersaturate the water until you can't get any more Borax to dissolve. 

Next, using the string, attach each of your snowflake pipe cleaner shapes to a pencil.  Then dangle them over the mouth of the jar...

Believe it or not, within a couple of hours you will have lovely crystallized snowflakes to hang on your tree! 

Just umm...don't leave your snowflakes in the Borax water all night long because instead of lightly coated flakes, you'll end up with globbed up, crusted up blobs of gunky crystals.  Yeah.  Those aren't quite as pretty. 

Oh!  And you can pour some crystals out onto a paper towel and then lay them on a colored sheet of paper and look at them with a magnifying glass.  They're very pretty!

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