Science Experiments in the Kitchen are Always Fun & We are Creating Crystals

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Science experiments are always fun.  This week we pulled out an oldie, but goodie; creating crystals from borax.  I have done this with my older two in years past by making snowflakes.  This time we made it with my youngest and tried the Luck of the Irish by making shamrocks & adding a wee bit of green to see what happened.

It has been a lot of fun watching it grow, in fact it grew quickly.  Wait until you see our results/findings are & then you can match them to yours if you decided to do this at home.  But, before you start have your child make predictions of what they think will happen, record them & compare them to what actually takes place.

Supplies Needed:

  • string
  • wide mouth jar
  • green pipe cleaners
  • borax soap
  • pencil
  • boiling water
  • green food coloring (optional)
  • scissors

Crystal Science Project:

  1. The first step of making borax crystal shamrocks is to make the shamrock shape, which can be done by cutting two pipe cleaners into three equal sections.
  2. IMG_1945Bend the pipe cleaners in petal-like shapes, using the extra pipe cleaners wrap around the center of
    all four petals to create a shamrock shape. The shamrock should be sized to fit inside the jar you are using.
  3. Tie the string to the end of the shamrock stem. Tie the other end of the string to the pencil. You want the length to be such that the pencil hangs the shamrock into the jar, but doesn’t touch the bottom.  Set the shamrock aside until you have created the solution.
  4. IMG_1950Fill the jar you are using with boiling water.
  5. IMG_1954Add borax one tablespoon at a time to the boiling water, stirring to dissolve after each addition. The amount we used was approximately 4 tablespoons of borax per cup of water, although I have read 3.  We added until the water would dissolve any additional borax & did end up with some on the bottom of the jar, which is okay, but don’t let the shamrock touch it.
  6. We then tinted the liquid mixture with green food coloring for further observations.
  7. IMG_1955Hang the pipe cleaner shamrock into the jar so that the pencil rests on top of the jar and the shamrock is completely covered with liquid and hangs freely (not touching the bottom of the jar).
  8. Allow the jar to sit in an undisturbed location overnight.
  9. Look, observe & record like a scientist!                 IMG_1959Note:  Borax can typically be found in the laundry section of your stores.  It is not edible & adult supervision is required (my daughter said it looked like rock candy so of course we want the kids to know this isn’t rock candy!)                    What observations did we make?
    • The green food coloring did not absorb into the borax crystals, it was only in the water, which was a fun discovery and not what we expected.
    • Our jar was not wide enough at the top, the crystal grew so much in 48 hours that we couldn’t get it out.  We have decided to let it grow for a week to see what happens.
    • Crystals began to form within an hour.

Lava Lamp Experiments at the Counter

We are the proud owners of a lava zebra and hot pink lava lamp.  Well, technically one of our kids is the proud owner of this little contraption.  It can be mesmerizing and has created the question on occasion, How Does a Lava Lamp Work?

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We found a great explanation at How Stuff Works? Part of the explanation reads;

In the lamp you have two liquids which are:

  • Very close in density
  • Insoluble in one another

Oil and water are insoluble in one another (that’s where the expression “oil and water don’t mix” comes from), but oil and water have very different densities (a volume of water weighs a lot more than the same volume of oil). They won’t work, so you search to find two liquids that are very close in density and are insoluble. 

Now you apply heat to the bottom of the mixture. In a liquid motion lamp, the heat usually comes from a light bulb. The heavier liquid absorbs the heat, and as it heats up, it expands. As it expands it becomes less dense. Because the liquids have very similar densities, the formerly heavier liquid is suddenly lighter than the other liquid, so it rises. As it rises, it cools, making it denser and therefore heavier, so it sinks.

This all happens in slow motion because heat absorption and dissipation are fairly slow processes, and the density changes we are discussing here are very slight.

A great explanation, but this starts to sound like the adults talking on Charlie Brown to my youngest; wah wah wah wah wah…

So, when I asked my intern to look at some science experiments recently, she discovered this one and didn’t realize at the time that it was the perfect explanation for my hands-on learner.

Our first attempt:

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We took a clean, empty plastic bottle and filled it 3/4 of the way with water.  We added blue food coloring, placed the cover on & shook it up.  Then we added some oil demonstrating that water and oil really don’t mix.  We then began to pour in salt.  As the salt pours in, it absorbs and pushes some of the oil to the bottom and then bounces back to the top.  It was a challenge to catch it in photo, but you can catch a glimpse below.

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Our Second Attempt:

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We took a clean, empty plastic bottle and filled it 3/4 of the way with water.  This time we did not add any food coloring.  We added the oil like above and then topped it off with heavy layer of glitter.  As we added the salt, it collected the glitter, pulled it to the bottom and created balls of glitter that bounced back.

IMG_0723Our Third Attempt:

We can’t wait to update this post & let you know if our idea works or not.  We will be adding a broken glow stick to the mix and will let you know if it’s successful or not.  Why haven’t we done it yet?  We have visited three different stores and have not been able to find the larger size.  We’re on the hunt & will add up our discovery as soon as we can locate the right size glow stick.