What Kids Learn From This STEAM Activity
In the STEAM activity of growing crystals with Epsom salt, kids learn about chemistry and the process of crystallization in a hands-on and visually engaging way. They discover how to create beautiful, sparkling crystals by mixing Epsom salt with water and allowing the solution to cool and evaporate, observing how the salt molecules arrange themselves into solid crystal structures over time. This activity helps children develop an understanding of scientific concepts, such as solubility and the formation of solids from solutions, while also fostering patience and curiosity as they watch their crystals grow.
When kids make ornaments or “crystal seeds” with pipe cleaners in the process of growing crystals with Epsom salt, they can also express their creativity by shaping the pipe cleaners into a variety of unique and imaginative forms. This adds an artistic and personal touch to the scientific experiment, allowing them to explore both the creative and scientific aspects of the activity. It encourages them to think outside the box and design their own crystal-growing structures, making the learning experience even more engaging and enjoyable.
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What We Need For This STEAM Activity
- Epsom salt (also known as magnesium sulfate)
- A glass or plastic container (such as a glass jar or a clear plastic container)
- Hot water (adult supervision required)
- Pipe cleaners
- Wood Sticks
- Drink Stirrer
- Food coloring (optional)
How to Do the STEAM Activity Growing Crystals
- Create a shape (or shapes) with pipe cleaners to use as ornaments.
- Attach a string to the pipe cleaner and a stick, ensuring it’s long enough to reach the bottom of the container.
- Dissolve as much Epsom salt as possible in hot water to create a supersaturated solution. Use hot water and stir until no more salt dissolves.
- Allow the solution to cool for a while. (Optional: Add food coloring for colored crystals.)
- Dip the pipe cleaner(s) with a stick into the cooled Epsom salt solution and hang them in the container.
- Leave the container undisturbed in a quiet, cool place (like a fridge) where it won’t be disturbed.
- Crystals will slowly form on the pipe cleaner(s) over the next day or a few days.
- Take out the container the next day or in a few days and you will see crystals formed.
- Drain the water from the container.
- Harvest the pipe cleaners with a spoon from the fromed crystals at the bottom of the container.
- You now have beautiful ornaments with crystals!
Variations & Challenges
- Predictions: Before starting the experiment, have children make predictions about how they think the crystals will grow. This encourages critical thinking and hypothesis testing.
- Additives: Explore how adding a small amount of another substance, like table salt or borax, to the Epsom salt solution affects crystal growth. This can create different types of crystals.
- Seed Crystals: You can speed up the crystal growth process by introducing a small Epsom salt crystal (a “seed crystal”) to the solution. Hang the seed crystal in the container, and new crystals will start growing on it more quickly.
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