Observing Crystals

Grade Levels: 2 - 5

Winter is a time to observe and study crystals, especially as they appear in beautiful snowflakes. Even if you live in a warm area, this activity will help your students understand the formation and complexity of crystals, as well as the characteristic of uniformity all crystals share.

Crystals provide information about cloud types, temperatures, and heights of clouds. The shape of crystals varies-many are six-sided or hexagonal in shape, but other patterns exist. After doing this investigation, have your students read about crystals in the library. You may want them to do follow-up mini-reports on crystals and draw some pictures of crystals. Here they will be growing crystals from a solution of sugar and water. The sugar is the seed, or catalyst, that starts the crystal formation.

CAUTION:
Because boiling water is used in this activity, adult supervision is absolutely necessary!

Objectives

  • Students will "grow" crystals.
  • Students will observe the way crystals "grow"

Materials

  • Glass thermal-treated measuring cup
  • 10-inch long string
  • Spoon
  • Pencil
  • Sugar
  • Boiling water (CAUTION: To be poured only by an adult)

Procedures

  1. Pour boiled water into a glass measuring cup.
  2. Add l/2 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Tie the string to the pencil and put it in the cup so that it dangles in the sugar water.
  4. Wait and leave undisturbed for four days.
  5. Have your students tell what happened to the string and describe what they saw.
  6. Have the students tell what happened to the water.
  7. Have your students read and find out what happens inside a cloud when crystals are formed. They will see that all crystals have a definite pattern or symmetry about them. The ions or atoms are arranged in a specific pattern, and this is a characteristic of all crystals.

Excerpt from Elementary Science Activities for All Seasons.

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