Friday, January 31, 2014

Crystal Hearts

Add a little science to your Valentine’s Day activities with these old-school crystal hearts. Asking what-if questions and setting this activity up as a series of experiments will enhance both your “send home” Valentines and your science center.

For each crystal heart you wish to make, you need:

1 pencil, 2 pipe cleaners, 1 cup Borax (use the real deal – 20 Mule Team Borax – about $ a box), wide mouth clear container at least 8” tall (I used a wide-mouthed Mason jar),  boiling water, spoon, measuring cup.Also pictured – shallow dish, additional pencil, pipe cleaners, jar, and Borax for alternative experiment for comparisons.

Encourage children to shape a pipe cleaner into a heart with a tail.

Attach a second pipe cleaner to the tail of the first so that the heart can dangle in the jar.

Attach the end of the second pipe cleaner to a pencil by simply wrapping it around until you have the correct length. This took a little experimenting and trial and error of my own! The heart needs to be suspended in the jar and not touch the bottom.

Children can measure out the Borax with appropriate supervision.

Pour Borax into jar (1/2 to ¾ cup).

Adults only should pour boiling water into jar to at least the 3 cup mark. NOTE: If you are using glass container less thick than a Mason jar or a pyrex dish, you need to warm the jar in the oven or dishwasher prior to pouring boiling water into it to avoid breaking the glass.

Stir the solution to help the Borax dissolve.

Suspend the heart in the solution.

Let the predictions begin!!!
Ask children questions and write down their answers. You may want to get a kitchen timer and use it to help children remember to check on their hearts. Children can take turns being the observer/recorder as well.

            How long do you think it will take for the crystals to form?
            What size crystals do you think will be made?
            Where are the crystals going to form? (On the pipe cleaner in the water? Above the water? On the jar?)

Make timed observations and help children record their observations.

ONE HOUR in solution:

TWO HOURS in Solution:

THREE HOURS in Solution:

            Discuss your results and talk about why the crystals formed, how they formed, etc.

Create alternative experiments generated by what if questions such as what if we just soak the pipe cleaner in Borax solution and hang it to dry? Will crystals form? Will they form just like those in the jar with the solution?

To explore this alternative hypothesis, dissolve the Borax in a shallow dish.

Swish a pipe cleaner heart in the solution.

Suspend the wet heart in a jar with no solution.

Ask questions, observe, record, discuss.

2 hours suspended

What if we used salt instead of Borax? Repeat steps above substituting salt for Borax. And on, and on, and on! Follow the lead the children take by supporting their curiosity (inquiry), and create opportunities for them to experience different results based on their suggestions and questions. Use prompts when needed.

I highly recommend creating a word wall as well. Here are some words to start with:

If you make one crystal heart per child, these could be the gifts sent home for moms for Valentine’s Day. I suggest that you also keep one for the science center for further experimenting. What if we left the heart in the solution overnight? What happens when the crystals dry out? How long will they last?

I hope you enjoy your crystal hearts and science experience!

Dr. Ellaine B. Miller, PhD, is the Managing Director for the Family Child Care Partnerships program at Auburn University.

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