The Willowbee children receive a gift of coins and sparkling crystals in this week’s The Willowbee Tree, “The Jewel Island”. It inspired us to work on a little experiment in treasure-growing, with lovely and fascinating results. You’ll also find Martin and Sylvia dabbling in a bit of creative chemistry this week in At Home with Martin and Sylvia, as they hope to find a way to make gold! While we didn’t end up with something quite that precious (sorry M and S!), what we did create was a springboard for diving into the world of simple home science.
There are so many ways to grow crystals at home, and the varied solutions you can use will provide different crystal structures to observe. You can make crystal-growing solutions from salt, sugar, alum, washing soda, etc., and each will have a different shape, unique to that specific grouping of molecules. Salt forms cubes, while sugar crystallizes into oblong shapes that are slanted at the ends. For our experiment, we chose an instant-gratification solution using Epsom Salts.
All you need for these interesting, needle-shaped crystals is:
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 cup Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate)
-cup or shallow bowl
-food coloring (optional)
Heat your water (not all the way to a boil), or use the hottest water from the tap, and add it to your container along with the Epsom Salts. Stir until all or most of the Epsom Salts dissolve. You may still have some undissolved grains, and that’s okay. Your crystals will grow onto these. If you want to add a few drops of food coloring to your water, do that now. The crystals themselves will remain transparent, but you will see color from the water clinging to them. We used two cups and added color to one and not the other.
If you’d like, you can put a coin on the bottom of the glass. The crystals should grow on the coin, especially if you put a couple of undissolved grains on top of it. This might make it easier to take the crystals out and handle them.
Then, set your cups in the refrigerator, and within a few hours, there should be lots of crystals! We let them sit overnight, and then scooped them out with a spoon to observe more closely.
Here you can see the difference between the Epsom Salts before dissolving, and the resulting crystals that formed as water evaporated and the molecules bonded together.
If you do a search for crystal growing projects, you will see that there are many more to try using basic pantry items, some of which take longer to grow but result in large, more sturdy crystals that can be handled and displayed.
We hope you enjoy sparkling up your world!
Shannon Herrick is a mixed media artist and farmer, navigating the wilderness of modern life from a Little House in the Young Woods of southern Vermont. She spins yarn and tales, makes snow angels and reads fortunes in cups of hot cocoa. Musings and otherness can be found at www.thespunmonkey.com, and her turf on Etsy is here: www.thespunmonkey.etsy.com