Crystallizing Snowflakes

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Every day students in our program conduct science experiments and engage in STEM activities. How do the crystals grow? Hot water dissolves more crystals than cold water because heated water molecules move farther apart, making more room for the crystals to dissolve. As the solution cools, the water molecules move closer together so there’s less room to hold the dissolved crystals. The crystals will now cling to the pipe cleaner and to other crystals as the water evaporates. Older kids might want to experiment with different concentrations of Borax solution, other types of crystals (like salt or sugar), leaving the pipe cleaners in the solution for different amounts of time, putting different materials in the solution and seeing what will crystallize (this is my current obsession), and seeing what happens if they try adding food coloring or glitter to the mix. Talk about the changes you notice between the original snowflakes and these alterations.

MATERIALS

Borax laundry detergent booster

Water

pipe cleaners

string

pencil or chopstick

Scissors

Mason jars or old pickle jars

 

DIRECTIONS

1.    Form your pipe cleaners into snowflake shapes. One long pipe cleaner can be cut into six pieces to make a simple star, or you can get fancier if you want. (Just remember that your snowflakes can’t be taller or wider than the container you’re going to pour your Borax solution into).

2.    Use string to tie your snowflakes onto a pencil or chopstick–anything long enough to span the container you’re using.

3.    Mix up a batch of Borax solution: 1/3 cup of Borax to 2 cups of boiling water. Stir the mixture until the Borax is dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4.    Submerge your pipe cleaner snowflakes in the Borax solution, making sure they don’t touch the sides or bottom of your container, or each other if you’re doing multiple snowflakes in one pot.

5.    “Set it and forget it!” Carry on about your merry way, go to sleep, and when you wake up the next morning check out your awesome crystal snowflakes!

 

Bonus! Read: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

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Wide-Eyed & Smiley is the look you see on the faces of children when they awaken to something new—something they were born to do. It's a look we spark everyday after school and during the summer as we engage children in literacy, STEM, art, sports, and social and emotional learning activities. 

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