Monday, May 30, 2016

Homeschool Science: A Crystals Study

As I am wont to do, I collected an immense amount of resources for our study of mineral crystallization, and we ended up with a rather nice crystals study apart from our overarching inquiry into rocks and minerals. In fact, I may have been the one most fascinated by our little rabbit trail into crystals!

There were two main parts to our crystals study: we modeled crystals, so that we could understand their formation, and we made them, so that we could observe and identify them.

Modeling Crystals

crystal paper models. You can search for and find these on Ellen McHenry's website which, if you haven't been to it before, I highly recommend that you give it a browse--it's amazing! Both of my kids could make these paper models independently, and each one represents not just one basic crystal shape, but also includes information about that shape right on it, excellent for ready reference and research. After the kids made these and we studied them, I added them to the science shelves in my homeschool closet as a permanent resource.

mineral chemical composition game. This is also on Ellen McHenry's website, and it's not actually about modeling crystals, but if you want to understand why crystals are different and not all the same shape, then you should learn that they have different chemical compositions, and what some of those chemical compositions are. I print the game pieces out on white cardstock, the kids color them in with watercolor pencils (this is an excellent research project, as of course you want to color them in realistically!), we cut them out, and then we play!
After you roll your elements, you have to look to see if you can build any minerals from the combination.


Lucky me!
Zometool crystals. These were the most fascinating models to build, because you didn't know what you were going to get--you had to figure out for yourself how to logically follow the form, and then you got it!

crystal diagrams. The text on this page is pretty sophisticated, but the diagram can be printed large-scale for reference.

Making Crystals

You can't make the crystals that form out of magma, alas, but you can make the crystals that evaporate out of solution. The following recipes are all ones that involve supersaturating something, then waiting for it to evaporate out in crystal form:

rock candy (ie. sugar): Rock candy never looks as nice for us as it does in other people's tutorials, and guarding against ants is always a huge problem. Nevertheless, this one is special because after you've observed it, checked it out under the microscope, and tried to count the sides of its crystals, you can eat it. Kids LOVE this one.



stalactites and stalagmites. We didn't make these models, but I have the idea in my pocket for a caves unit that I'd like to complete this year. 


borax. These particular crystals are also super fun to grow on a pipe cleaner. 

egg geodes. We grew our crystals mainly in Petri dishes, but these egg ones would make a lovely Easter decoration.

 seashell crystals. Like the egg geodes, but in seashells! You can also use rocks, or whatever else you can think of that has a bit of a tooth to it.

aragonite crystals

crystals on charcoal.

Wayne This and That's Crystals page. I haven't tried any of his tutes, but his website also includes his X-Files fanfiction, the "best vanilla pudding recipe," and a page about how much he loves bettas. So, basically it's pretty great.

alum crystals.

Reference Materials

A lot of books about minerals are really dry, and a lot of other books about crystals are all about their woo-woo energies, but her are some that we found useful and enjoyable:


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