The children made me promise, some time ago, that I wouldn't buy educational presents for Christmas. So, I was happy to when a box arrived from my sister, with a couple of science kits included amongst all the toys, and candy.
Early in our homeschool adventure we used a lot of science kits, and enjoyed some of them. But, gradually we figured out we could perform most of the same experiments without the kits. So, I was curious to see how a kit would measure up now.
If nothing else, it provided a good chance to test the children's ability to read, and follow instructions. The instruction sheet, which has a colorful poster on the back...
...provides clear, step by step instructions, with accompanying pictures.
But, despite the apparent simplicity, there were several bumps along the way, leaving plenty of room for critical thinking, and stretching of scientific, and mathematical knowledge.
To begin with, even though the chemical pouches of blue, and yellow dyed monoammonium phosphate, came with scary warnings, suggesting the necessity of protective eye wear...
...the included safety glasses, where less than reassuring...
...although, G enjoyed modeling them.
The measurements for the water, that needed to be added, were given in millimeters, but the included measuring cup was marked with oz. and ccs (which after we Googled to double check turned out to be the same, for this purpose).
But, that was okay anyway, because although the instruction show the chemical being measured, and mixed with boiling water, in a mixing cup, there is an accompanying note, not to use the included measuring cup, as it is not heat resistant.
Then, we were instructed to pour 2/3 of the chemical out of the packet...the non-see-through packet. Since approximate amounts are not really very scientific, and since the chemical was to be dissolved in a premeasured amount of water, G decided to make use of the "play" measuring cup, to determine how much chemical there was, and how much of it would make 2/3.
The kit came with three rocks for growing the crystals on, and two different sizes of plastic, growing cups, but stated the crystals would only grow in the smaller cups, even though one of rocks was much larger than the others, and didn't fit well in the smaller cup.
So basically, you cut the cups apart.
Boil the premeasured water.
Mix it with 2/3's of the contents from one of the pouches (the remaining one thirds get mixed together to make the third color)...
...until the crystals are dissolved. This was next to impossible. It took a LOT of stirring - more than most children would have the patience for. And finally, we just used it, mainly dissolved, and hoped for the best.
The solution is poured over one of the rocks, in one of the grow cups.
Seed crystals (which the instructions did not tell us to save out), are sprinkled over the rock, and the container is placed in a safe place, to allow the crystals to grow undisturbed, until the water evaporates down to the point of touching the growing crystals.
Then, the steps are repeated two more times, so three different colors of crystals are growing.
The instructions suggest shining a flashlight through the water, to observe the crystals growing. We did begin to see crystals in our yellow solution within a few hours. But, we could not see through the blue, or green solutions, so we weren't sure if there were any crystals growing in them, until a few days later, when we poured off the water.
We didn't grow the spectacular crystal formations shown on the box, but we did have some success.
And, G enjoyed the process, as well as the results.
I'm not sure I'd say the kit is worthy of the Smithsonian name, with toy safety glasses, and measuring cup, but it wasn't a total loss.
We've grown various crystals before, most recently from alum, with enough success, that I think a kit is probably not necessary for crystal growing either. But, it does come with an informative poster, and the glitz, and glamor, of at least some of the proper tools.
If your interested in growing crystals at home, without a kit, check out Wayne Schmidt's This and That, Crystal pages. They are very informative.
And, for more science themed fun in general, click over to this week's Science Sunday link-up, at Adventures in Mommydom.
It's great to be a homeschooler.