Crystal Week!

Crystal Week. Such promise, such hope, such beauty. The idea for crystal week all got started back when the snug saw a Dora the Explorer Crystal kit. One in which you could make your own crystals, it had different packets and test tubes! She loved it instantly, I waited a couple of weeks and then thought, might as well, we could make it into a week theme. If anything we will own a pair of sturdy test tubes, which could definitely come in handy later. 

We got the kit and jumped head first into crystal week. The Dora kit worked great, I have pics and explanations further down. Everything else we did, did not go as well. Crystal week turned into crystal two weeks and experiments were repeated multiple times. Here are a couple of things I learned. 
*Crystals are a huge topic, one that needs a lot of basic information to fully understand. 
*Crystals can and should be simplified for the younger audience. I didn’t think of this at the time. 
*Over-saturation and frugality are two things that do not combine. 
*Crystals are a big topic. I think I said that already, but really.
 *It is a more advanced topic so all the projects you do are fun, but it is hard to get through to what is really happening.

Fiction; (I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t find more stories about crystals at my library, these were the three main ones, hopefully you have better luck).
Dora the Explorer Crystal Kingdom Adventures Ready to Read level 1- This is a nice version of this book, some of the words are replaced by pictures of the word. It helps the child to refer to the words that make the story and lets them be involved in reading the story. 
Dora the Explorer Dora Saves the Crystal KingdomThis is the longer version of the previous story. It is has more elaborate details to the base story and is going to be more like the version they play on TV. 
The Crystal Mountain by Ruth Sanderson-This is a longer story but good. Not much significance for crystals, past crystal mountain which is the main destination in this story. This did have a lot to do with weaving, though, which was nice, it brought up an old topic.  In a nutshell though, a mother weaver and her three sons make a living selling the mothers woven cloths. One night she dreams of a beautiful place and knows she has to weave it. The youngest most artistic son is the most supportive. Years go by and it is finally finished, but is taken by the wind. Though the three sons set out it is the youngest with the most determination to find it. It is on top of crystal mountains with the fairies. They make a replica and give it back to him, not before one fairy weaves herself in. With the boys mother unwinds the cloth it becomes real and the son and the fairy (now human) go off seeking adventure. (sorry that wasn’t much of a nutshell). 

Growing Crystals by Ann O. Squire- This book was an essential introduction book to crystals. A little long winded; it showed where you could find crystals and simplified their structural make up. Great for earlier elementary explanation. 
Geology Rocks! Crystals by Rebecca Faulkner- This is a step up from the first book mentioned. A little more in depth but very well and simply written. This would be a great companion book to the first or fabulous by itself for the upper elementary age. 
Experiment with Science Just Add Water– We only did one project from this book, trying to make stalacites and stalagmites. All of the experiments would be great for young kiddos started age 3. Though a lot of them, if not all need assistance and explanation, they are all written with great instructions and clear directives. I really like the way this book is laid out. 

There are two more books we looked at but didn’t read. They are pretty in depth and lost my daughter after the first page. Here are the names.
Crystals and crystal gardens you can grow by Jean Stangl- This was a very good resource, however way too advanced for what we wanted to do. It would be very good to use for projects.
Eyewitness Books Crystal & Gem– We absolutely love all of the eyewitness books. Though they are a little beyond our reading patience, they pictures are wonderful. There is an Eyewitness video series and most of the books have a condensed video edition. These are our favorite and we have been watching them ever since we let the snug start watching TV. She enjoys them thoroughly and they allow enough information to strike interest and promote further investigation.  


Here it is! The beloved kit! Note how it says ‘my first’ we should have stopped there. I think if we had just done this kit for the week that would have been more then enough. There are a ton of different crystal kits, snug and I were at a toy store the other day and saw so many different kinds. So I am torn, usually for these projects and themes I try and stay away from kits, but for crystals, some DNA and other types of matters, like butterfly growing. I feel a kit is best to start with and go from there. The kits are often easier also, everything is laid out in front of you and ready to go. Fairly fool proof, looking at my stat-record of mistakes I should probably use kits more often.

This is what came in the kit; instructions, vegetable oil, glitter, a pack of water absorbent crystals, color tabs and test tubes with holder.

First thing on the list, take a color tablet and dissolve it in water. One for every color, there were three.

Standard primary colors; yellow, red and blue.

We spent a while talking about colors and color combinations. When the test tubes were held up to the window or a light, they would look like this.

Next up, mix some of the vegetable oil with water and note what happens. Then add a color tablet. It was pretty cool. After that we did made a ‘wand’.

Bottled magic.

After playing with colors for as long as you want, take the water absorbent crystals and place them in water for a color of hours. They start out pretty small. Like sea salt.

The get a lot bigger. At this size you can play with them and explore them. They are no longer hard but very soft and smooth and slightly squishy, but it is hard to actually squash them and take them apart.

We put these crystals out in the ‘sun’ to see what would happen. They shrunk down to almost their original size. (This picture was taken a little ways into the project). If you had a ton of sun though I am sure all the water would evaporate and they would become the tiny rocks again. After they were completely shrunk, we took two or three of the crystal and put them in a test tube filled with water.

For 24 hours. They got to be pretty big.
That summed up the Dora project. The kit itself came with a ton of supplies though, we still have a lot of everything left over. Eventually it will be good to go back and do different experiments. Like what would happen if you put the water crystals in colored water, would the crystals change color? If so would they stay that color after the water evaporated?
Overall, I really liked the Dora kit. It was set up so there is some time in between each project, we did the whole thing over 3 or 4 days in fact. There was a lot of time to talk about what was happening and for her to make observations about changes.

Crystals around the house!
Our next project involved looking around the house for various crystals.We only found a small amount but there are so many laying around the house! BE CAREFUL when distinguishing what crystals are food and what are not. Sprinkles, sugar salt = great crystal food. Epsom salt, cleaning salts, etc = fun experiment gone terribly terribly wrong. This didn’t happen to us, at this point we didn’t have any crystals that weren’t food, but I had this terrible thought while blogging and thought it best to toss it in.

We found, seasoned salt, sugar, sprinkles, (which is just colored sugar), sea salt and table salt. The snug did a taste test of all of them when I wasn’t looking, which is why there are a lot of little holes in them and also why we didn’t really look too hard out of the kitchen for other crystals. (see above warning). She investigated them and we came up with this drawing to try and make things easier.

We are pretty good at our shapes around here, but we really haven’t gotten into 3-D shapes yet. So it was kind of hard to explain to the snug how the integral structure of crystals is based on very precise, repetitive geometric patterns. They build and build on each other in, theoretically, very straight lines. We have talked a lot about bubbles before and why they are shaped the way they are, all the molecules pushing out to the edges, making it a circle. So I thought I could try to explain the crystals structure. I definitely lost her. I tried again. Lost again. I wasn’t disappointed, just frustrated with myself for not really knowing an easier way to explain it to her.

This is part one of the crystal blog. This is the part where much of this week was successful. Part two will show all the fails that occurred that week and the following week and a half after. I had to post though, just in case anyone ever tried something and failed, then failed again, then finally gave up because they had already used two bags of sugar and they knew if they boiled any more sugar to make the syrup it might be harmful to our bedtime routine.


One response to “Crystal Week!

  1. Pingback: Natural Easter Egg Dye 2012 « The Crayon Apron

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