Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Do you study crystals in your homeschool elementary science? Crystals are beautiful and while you probably do not realize it, crystals are all around us. Sugar and salt are both crystals. A crystal is an organized grouping of atoms, or molecules. Each crystal has different properties and shapes.

Crystals have many different uses. Precious gems make beautiful jewelry. Carbon is a crystal. As graphite, carbon will conduct electricity, act as a lubricant between moving parts, it is used as a writing tool such as pencil, and it can be used to strengthen steel. As diamond, carbon is used for cutting and as a gemstone in jewelry. Vibrating crystals can be used for time keeping, such as in a quartz clock.

Here is an experiment that will show you how to grow a crystal.

* Alum powder
* Glass jar
* Pot
* Spoon
* Dish, not too deep
* Cloth

Step 1: Create a saturated solution by putting two cups of water in your pot. Add 4 ounces of alum powder. Stir over a medium-low flame until the powder is dissolved completely. Continue to add more powder, slowly, until it stops dissolving in the water. You have now created your saturated solution.
Step 2: After the solution has cooled, pour some in a shallow dish, and the rest into your glass jar. Add a tablespoon of alum powder to your jar, and stir. Cover the jar with a clean cloth, and set it aside. It needs to be in a warm location, where it will not be disturbed. Leave the solution in the dish uncovered.
Step 3: Within several days, you will see crystals start to grow in the dish. After the solution in the dish has completely dissolved, you will be left with lots of seed crystals.
Step 4: Tie a piece of string around a pencil or sturdy stick. Tie the other end around the largest seed crystal. You will be using this to grow your alum crystal.
Step 5: Suspend the crystal in the solution in your jar. Put the jar back in its warm spot, and leave it alone.
Step 6: It will take about two weeks for your crystal to grow completely; after that, you can remove your crystal and use it or display it.

Have your child draw pictures or take pictures of the solution each day to show the growth of the crystal. At the end of the project, have your child sequence the pictures on poster board for others to see the whole process. You might be allowed to display it in your local library if you ask nicely. The crystal itself can be mounted on a pedestal, on a separate piece of poster board, or made into jewelry.

If you and your child make several crystals, you can arrange them as a crystal garden. You can also just pile them in a clear glass bowl. It will make a cool, 3-D display.

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