Sunday, January 8, 2017

Create a Little Winter Science Magic!

I'm thinking that I might start a 'Sunday Science' series of posts.  This week during our 'Winter' unit, my PreK class got to make Borax snowflakes.  This is one of my favorite experiments that I do with the kids all year.  It can be a little dicey, but if you have good control over your class, and stress how important it is to follow directions...you should be able to complete the experiment with no problems at all.

I'm going to give some step by step instructions with photos...bear with me, this post will be long!

First assemble everything you will need.
1 box of Borax
Mason jars-1 per snowflake
pipe cleaners cut in to 3 pieces a width that will fit into mouth of jar
a pencil-not round!
yarn or string
measuring spoons
measuring cups
scissors
food color (optional)
tape and sharpie (if you choose to label jars with names)
large craft sticks or spoons for stirring


The recipe for the snowflakes is as follows (I use this method for younger children)
6 Tablespoons Borax
1 cup HOT water
1 cup cool water
food coloring (optional)

Twist 3 pipecleaner pieces together to make a snowflake, and add string.  tie one end of the string onto a pencil (not a round pencil, or the string will unroll and the snowflake will get stuck on the bottom.)

I talk to the kids about the dangers of HOT water.  I how them how to hold their jar and stir so they don't get scalded by the water. (in 6 years, no one has been scalded)  I do this experiment in small groups...3-4 kids at a time.  I go over the rules about handling HOT water again.

Each child is given a jar with their name on it-or you can do 1 jar for the group.  We look at everything we have assembled and name each item.  I tell the kids that borax is powdered soap crystals and that we are making a 'solution'.  We count the tablespoons of Borax as we measure them into the jars.  Them I add the HOT water only and we stir breaking up clumps if needed.

After stirring for quite a while,  when I can see the majority of the Borax is dissolved, we add the cooler water and stir some more.

Then we are ready to add the food color and the snowflake.  The water will be very cloudy at first.  Let the pencil rest across the top of the jar-winding the string around it so that the snowflake is not touching the bottom of the jar.

We then say a little magic spell-I usually make it up on the spot. This year it went something like, "Abracadabra goodness sake, please become a snow flake." (silly, but the kids love it!)  We slowly and carefully place the jars on a shelf and go on with our day

By the next morning the water is clear and the crystals are clearly visible.  Actually, most of the time crystals have formed within 30 minutes.  Its wonderful!

The next day I assemble magnifying glasses, paper towels, and a large tub to dump the remaining solution into for center time.

I call the kids in groups of 3-4 to my center and we have our big 'reveal'!  I dump the solution and place the 'snowflake' carefully on the paper towel.  The kids are allowed to examine their snowflakes and the crystals that have formed int he jar for as long as they like.  They always ask how we made ice...I tell them to touch the snowflake...it is not cold.  it is not ice...it can be hard for them to understand.  I try to explain the best way I can to 4-5 year-olds how the saturated solution clings to the string and pipe cleaners as the solution cools and the soap reverts to it's origional form.

I place the snowflakes carefully in a baggie wrapped in a paper towel for them to take home.  They are so excited to show their parents at the end of the day...it is an absolute thrill to see how happy and engaged they are.  I always listen to how the kids will explain the experiment to their parents...it's adorable!

Kids LOVE science, and I LOVE exploring right alongside them!

Enjoy!

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