Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snowflake Bentley: Sparkly Snowflakes

While both the book and activity have been featured on the Science Matters blog previously (here and here, respectively), it's been awhile and it's such a great pairing that it bears being part of this month's Picture Book Science.

Snowflake Bentley is a beautiful non-fiction picture book outlining the life of Wilson Bentley, the first man to photograph individual snowflakes. 

The highlights of Bentley's life are written as a child-friendly story.  Greater detail is provided in the margins of each page. 

This is a fun, artsy-craftsy project in which students can learn about solubility, super-saturated solutions and crystal shapes.  

Make a super-saturated solution of Borax and water:
--Fill a jar with hot water (boiling is best).
--Add Borax, a little at a time, until no more will dissolve (you'll know you're there because instead of dissolving the Borax will settle to the bottom)

Use pipe cleaners and thread to make a snowflake.

Attach a piece of thread to the snowflake.

Place the snowflake in the Borax solution and leave for several hours or overnight. 

In the morning, you'll have a beautiful, sparkling snowflake, covered with large crystals. 

If you'd rather not make snowflake shapes, you can shape the pipe cleaner into stars or other shapes.  You could also just place a straight pipe cleaner into the solution.

The pipe cleaner works well because all the fuzz on it gives the crystals nice places to attach, and thus works much better than just a string.  (Which may explain why all my attempts at making rock candy as a kid were met with utter failure (and a sticky mess)).

Safety Note: The Borax and the finished snowflake should come nowhere near the mouth.  

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