Christmas Science: Chemistry

5 Days of Christmas Science

Welcome to 5 Days of Christmas Science, where each day this week, I am going to share a Christmas-related science activity that you can do in December.

Crystal-Ornaments

Today is a Christmas chemistry lesson. More than likely, you’ve already done this activity in the course of your homeschool science. Overnight Borax crystals are taught in almost every science book we’ve personally used.

This time, we created Christmas ornaments shaped like a beaker, a light bulb, and an atom.  

After as many times as we have done this activity, I am still amazed over how gorgeous these crystals are, especially since they are made with laundry detergent!

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I made three different versions of ornaments. Read over the items needed and the instructions below and determine which of the three methods you want to try out.

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Version one: coffee filter in a bowl

  • Borax
  • Water
  • Glass bowl
  • Coffee filter
  • Food coloring
  • Clear coat spray

You will also need to find and print out some templates to use a guide when making your ornaments. If you Google ‘science silhouette’ you’ll find plenty to choose from. Print each one as large as you plan to make your ornament. The ornament I made using this method is the light bulb.

  1. Boil a pot of water.
  2. Mix about 3 T of Borax to every 1 cup of water. Some Borax powder will end up settling on the bottom. This is fine.
  3. Pour the hot water into a glass bowl.
  4. Add food coloring if desired.
  5. Trace your ornament template onto a coffee filter and cut out the shape.
  6. Poke a hole near the top of the shape. This will enable you to thread a string or hook through it later.
  7. Place the cutout coffee filter into the Borax solution and set the bowl in a safe place.
  8. Wait 24 hours.
  9. Remove your crystallized ornament from the mixture and spray both back and front with clear coat spray.
  10. After drying, thread a hook or strong through the hole and hang your new ornament on your Christmas tree!

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Version two: pipe cleaner in a bowl

  • Everything above, except pipe cleaners instead of a coffee filter.

The ornament I made using this method is the atom.

  1. Complete steps 1-4, same as above.
  2. Using the template you printed, mold the pipe cleaners into the shape of the silhouette. For the atom, I created loops using 3 pipe cleaners and then attached them together using two very small snips of another pipe cleaner.
  3. Place the pipe cleaners into the Borax solution and set the bowl in a safe place.
  4. Wait 24 hours.
  5. Remove your crystallized ornament from the mixture and spray both back and front with clear coat spray.
  6. After drying, thread a hook or string through one of the openings and hang your new ornament on your Christmas tree!

Science-ornaments

Version three: pipe cleaner in a jar

  • Borax
  • Water
  • Wide mouthed glass jar
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Food coloring
  • String
  • Wooden craft stick or pencil
  • Clear coat spray

The ornament I made using this method is the beaker.

  1. Complete steps 1-4, same as above, pouring into a glass jar instead of a bowl.
  2. Using the template you printed, mold the pipe cleaners into the shape of the silhouette. For the beaker, I left a long portion of pipe cleaner sticking up from the top.
  3. Wrap the extra pipe cleaner around the craft stick or pencil and lower the shape down into Borax solution. The stick/pencil should rest on top of the jar.
  4. Set the jar in a safe place and wait 24 hours.
  5. Remove your crystallized ornament from the mixture and spray both back and front with clear coat spray.
  6. After drying, you can bend the extra portion of pipe cleaner into a hook and hang your new ornament on your Christmas tree!

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How does this work? Borax occurs naturally in dry lake deposits and is found in crystal form. When you dissolve the commercial powder in boiling water, the water becomes saturated with the Borax and the powder becomes suspended. The powder deposits itself on the pipe cleaners, and when the water cools, the Borax returns to its natural state leaving large crystals behind.

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

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