STEAM Activity: Crystal Pipe Cleaner Ornaments
Ho to the 3rd power STEM Sparkers! 'Tis the season to fa la to the 3rd power! Okay, enough 3rd power math puns there, it's time to make some Crystal Pipe Cleaner Ornaments using Borax powder and boiling water. This STEM (or STEAM) Activity is a great way to decorate for the holidays!
Borax (powder form)
1. Create ornament shape using pipe cleaner. I made a spiral using a pencil and Jack made a little loop. Make sure to bend one end into a hook (or later you can just tie a string around the pipe cleaner).
2. Poor 3 tablespoons of powder Borax into glass jar.
3. Poor 1 cup of boiling water into glass jar. Boiling water is best, so it might best to have adult help or supervision with this step.
4. Stir water/Borax mixture until Borax is dissolved. You now have a saturated solution! If you need a bigger water/Borax solution, it's 3 tablespoons of Borax for each cup of boiling water.
5. Hang the pipe cleaner ornament inside the jar. You'll need to make sure the pipe cleaners are fully emerged but not touching the bottom or sides of the jar (the crystals will attach to both the pipe cleaner and glass jar, making it hard to take pipe cleaner out!). This is where the hook on one end is helpful; if you didn't make a hook, you can use string and pencil to suspend the pipe cleaner ornaments in the solution.
6. Leave pipe cleaner ornaments in water/Borax solution over night. You'll start to see changes after a few hours, but over night (or even longer), will result in the best crystals!
A bit about the science behind Borax crystals: the Borax powder/water solution is a saturated solution. Within the hot liquid, there are still large particles that will settle slowly. Those particles land on the pipe cleaners and of course the bottom/sides of the jar.
As the water cools, the water molecules return back to their normal state, and this is when the particles start to settle. If the cooling process is too quick or the jars are disturbed, you may end up with irregularly shaped crystals. This is because the impurities were not able to separate.
With our crystal ornaments, the water cooled too quickly, so our crystals aren't as shiny as they could be. But here at STEM Spark, we see that as a lesson learned and we're ready to try again! We hope that you have better results! Once again, we wish our STEM Spark readers a very happy holiday season, and happy STEAM-ing!