Welcome back to 5 days of STEM activities. We’re having a blast at my place…hope you get a chance to try some of these ideas out and enjoy them, too!
Yesterday I shared an actual kit that we dove into…. but today I have is one of those activities that I call “serendipitous science.” The friend I mentioned that leads the Science Club casually mentioned a while back that she just loves crystals. She also mentioned that she had a piece of bismuth that she was looking forward to melting to see the shapes of its crystals. (And yes, you can get it from Amazon – isn’t that crazy?)
She showed me a YouTube video of how to melt the chunk o’ rock, which is really what it looks like: a shiny rock, and I was “in!”
This is what it looks like – isn’t it really pretty? You can’t really see from the picture, but there are so many colors reflected on the face of that rock! Let me pause here to add that you should have goggles on while doing this. It does get over 500° (the melting point of bismuth is 520°) and we don’t want anyone getting injured. Wearing leather work gloves is also recommended, but we didn’t have any and were just super careful…
We picked up a small sauce pan from Goodwill, which turned out to be a recommended step. Trust me: you will NOT be able to use your pot again for anything remotely culinary after this little activity.
After only about 5 minutes of moderate heat, this is what it looked like. That skin starting to form is the dross, which, when you drag it out with a fork (also a Goodwill purchase) looks like this:
Dross is the foreign matter or waste which comes to the top when you purify metals. But, honestly, I think this is beautiful in and of itself! And see how it sticks to the fork, too? I wish I had a better picture of it, because by the end of our playing around, there was a gorgeous multi-colored glob on the tines of that utensil. My daughter asked if she could take it home, and it sits proudly on her dresser where she sees it first thing every morning, I love it 😉
After a few rounds of heating-and-cooling, these are some of the crystals we ended up with:
Aren’t those just gorgeous?? There are so many directions you can go with this activity, too. If you’re going to try it out at home, you might want to pick up one of these books to “dig in” to your studies.
And this, for your viewing pleasure, is the video that started it all!
Looking for more from our series on STEM Activities for middle schoolers?
Here’s the whole kit-n’-kaboodle:
Day 1 – Solar Cars
Day 2 – Crazy ’bout Crystals
Day 3 – STEM Resource round-up
Day 4 – Water-testing
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