Incidental Science Blog #6

Teaching your kids about crystals and gems is fantastic because they are tangible objects, that they can touch and play with whilst learning the science behind them. Another plus is that crystals are easy to grow at home and your kids can help create and watch them grow before their eyes.  

 

Before I give you a few different ways you can make them at home, here are some facts to share with your kids whilst you're experimenting with chemical reactions in nature;

 

What are gems? Gems are rare mineral crystals, valued for their beauty.

 

Okay, so then what are crystals? Crystals are solids formed by a regular, repeated pattern of molecules connecting together. They all have different shapes and properties, depending on which molecules are used to make them.

 

Where are they found? They are found inside different types of rocks and are made from clusters of minerals.

 

How do they form? In nature when liquids cool and start to harden, certain molecules in the liquid gather together and attempt to become solids/stable. Crystals can also form when liquid rock/magma cools.

 

Did you know you can make your own crystals? There are a few different methods to do this, some use crystals that you melt (borax crystals), which then grow over a few days to a week. You can also purchase special solutions with minerals that slowly grow crystals within a jar!

 

Fun fact! Did you know that snowflakes are ice crystals that are form in the clouds when the water freezes, and every single one is unique (just like you!)?

 

How do Scientists group gems? The best way to classify gems is from their chemicals and minerals, rather than how pretty or rare they are, because the science of them doesn’t change simply due to opinion or popularity.

 

Gemmology Scientists are called Gemologists and Crystallography is the science of studying crystals.

 

 

A great way to get kids involved in science is by doing an experiment! At our Science Shop (46 Coleridge Street, Sydenham, CHCH or online at www.scienceshop.co.nz) we sell fantastic kits for creating your very own homemade crystals!

 

 

 

If you’d like to learn how to grow your own crystals with borax, sea salt or washing soda crystals (available at most supermarkets) here are the instructions;

 

Materials:

 

Borax, sea salt or washing soda crystals - 1-2 Cups

Boiling water - 1 litre

Skewer

Thread

Pipe cleaners

Heat-proof container

Food colouring

Plate

Paper towels

 

Instructions:

 

1. Weave your pipe cleaners into a shape (3 weaved together should be enough).

2. Suspend the pipe cleaners from the middle of the skewer with the thread.

3. Then create your crystal growing solution. Make it inside a heat-proof container. 

4. Mix boiling water with your borax, keep adding borax until the it won't disolve anymore (this will take longer than you think!).

5. Stir it constantly, the solution will be cloudy, slightly heavier feeling and some crystals will settle on the bottom.

6. Add your food colouring to the desired colour.

7. Then take your skewer with pipecleaners attached and hang them into the solution so they're being covered. 

8. Cover with a plate.

9. Wait 8 - 12 hours and then pull your crystal out and dry with a paper towel. 

10. Tadah! A home grown crystal!

 

 

Don’t forget to pop over to our Facebook Page and enter our competition to go in the draw to win your very own Crystal Growing kit! Competition will be posted Tuesday, 7th June at 9PM at the link above. :) 

 

 

 

Geni McCallum is the Marketing Manager and Community Educator for Science Alive! She lives in Christchurch with her partner, step-daughter and cat. 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Science Alive!