Saturday, January 2, 2010

Snowflakes & Ice Crystals

Can you figure out what this is?  Keep reading to find out!!!

NOTE: Until summer, all lessons will be completed by my 8 year old niece, Hannah.  The projects can be adapted for other ages, however, so hopefully everyone can get some ideas from these!  If you are interested in any or all of the worksheets that are used in our lessons, just leave a comment along with your e-mail, and I will be more than happy to share them with you!

Our first "official" unit was on Snowflakes.

To start off, she completed some worksheets dealing with Snowflakes.  The first was about Snowflake Analogies (Language Arts) and then we moved onto Temperatures in the United States (Geography).

We determined that since snowflakes are actually tiny crystals of ice, and the temperature has to be 32 degrees Fahrenheit in order for ice to form, that the outside temperature would have to be 32 degrees in order for it to snow. (I realize it's much more complicated than this - I wanted to keep it simple! lol)

I gave Hannah a map of the USA, complete with average temperatures in December.  I had her determine whether or not there is currently snow in the state, depending on if the average temperature is higher or lower than 32 degrees.

Once she was done, we talked about how there is more snow in the Northern region of the United States than the Southern, due to being closer to the equator, and how the West coast doesn't get as much snow, due to the warm temperatures coming from the ocean.

Next, we went onto a lesson about Symmetry (Math).  First, we reviewed the concept of what Symmetry means, and then I explained how you can make a symmetrical shape by folding a piece of paper in half and cutting it out.  Once you unfold it, the shape will be symmetrical.  I then had her fold a paper circle in half 3 times and make random cuts (She didn't know what she was making at this point!)  Once she was finished, I had her open it and, guess what - it was a snowflake!  She counted the lines of symmetry (4) and I asked her how she would make a shape with 2 lines of symmetry.  When we got finished making our symmetrical shapes, she decided they looked like a snowman, so we attached them together, and she made him a symmetrical hat.

Since we were discussing how snowflakes are actually tiny crystals of ice, for our last project, we attempted to grow some "ice" crystals ourself (Science) - only we didn't want them to melt!  I figured since it was just before Christmas, this was a great opportunity to make some last minute gifts for her relatives.

To start off, we gathered all of the supplies:

For each ornament you make, you will need Borax, 1 Glass Jar, a pipe cleaner, some string, and a plastic utensil or some other type of long object, such as a dowel.

First, take the pipe cleaner and twist and bend it into the desired shape.  We made icicles, snowflakes, stars, candy canes, Christmas tress, and a reindeer.  Next, attach a piece of string to the top end of the pipe cleaner, and attach that string to the plastic utensil, making sure there is enough string for the pipe cleaner to be completely suspended within the jar, like this:

Next, we set the pipe cleaners aside and filled the glass jar approx. 3/4 full of water - be sure not to go too full or there won't be enough room for the Borax.  We put the jar in the microwave until the water started boiling (about 4 minutes per jar).  I then used potholders to remove the jar from the microwave and place it in a glass bowl so that we wouldn't make a mess.  Hannah added Borax little by little while stirring, until she wasn't able to make anymore dissolve (we used almost 1 1/2 cups per jar).  This was a great opportunity to talk about the term saturation and how the water can only dissolve so much Borax until it has reached it's limit.

Once there is white powder at the bottom of the jar that will not dissolve, no matter how much you stir, you are ready!  Go ahead and suspend your creation into the mixture, making sure it is fully covered.  Place the jar aside and wait!

(You will notice that the mixture will get clearer as it sets.  The green snowflake towards the front was the last one that we did, so it's still cloudy looking.  The candy cane to the left of it had been sitting for 10-15 minutes, so it cleared up.)

Depending on how much Borax the water dissolves, it will either be a few hours for the crystals to form, otherwise you might have to leave it overnight.  For us, it took around 4 hours for them to be complete.

The next part is optional, but I dipped each of them into a clear varnish and let them dry overnight.  This makes them much stronger, so the tiny crystals won't break off as easily.

I went and cut off the string and then tied some coordinating ribbon onto each one to make it into and ornament, and we wrapped them all up to give away at Christmas.  Here's how they all turned out!

If you end up making some crystal creations, I would love to see how they turn out!


lara said...

Wow, I can't wait to get started on making our own crystals! Thanks!

Leptir said...

WOWW!! I just discovered your blog. Amazing ideas! Thanks for sharing :-)

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