The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed the national average science scores of eighth graders are stagnating and falling by twelfth grade. According to University of Albany, helping your middle-schooler experience science as fun is a key element for them to have a higher performance in science. Then, when a student realizes science can be fun, they can carry this interest through their school career at institutions like Saint Thomas Academy. Here are two fun crystal-growing science experiments you can conduct at home with your middle school-aged child to help get them interested in science and show them science can be fun.
Crystal Growth Experiment
In this experiment, you can help your child grow crystals at home inside a glass of sugar and water solution, or solute. Explain to your child the process of nucleation is when the molecules of dissolved sugar in water connect together in a repeat pattern to form crystals. Then, as more sugar molecules come together in the water, they will attach onto the crystals to grow it larger. The crystals will continue to grow inside the water and sugar solution until the molecules in the crystal and the molecules in the solution are at an equilibrium, or the same.
To do this experiment, you will need:
- Length of string
- Food coloring
- Tall, clear drinking glass or pint-sized mason jar
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- Sauce pan
- Stove top and your help
Instruct your child to tie a length of string to the pencil. Then, have your child measure the height of the jar or glass and cut the string at that length. Next, have your child tie a paperclip onto the other end of the string.
Instruct your child place the pencil on top of the mouth of the jar or glass with the paperclip hanging inside the jar. Make sure your child has enough string length for the paperclip to hang inside the jar approximately one inch from the bottom of the jar. If necessary, your child can wrap the string around the pencil to shorten the string's length inside the jar or glass.
Heat the water on the stove top for your child until it comes to a boil. Help your child stir the 2 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup at a time into the boiling water, allowing the sugar to dissolve before adding the next 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue adding sugar until you have added and dissolved all the sugar with the water. Next, your child can add drops of food coloring to your solution until the water is a dark color. Remove the sauce pan from the stove to allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes.
When the solute is cool, have your child pour the sugar solution into the mason jar or glass. Then, they should set the pencil over the mouth of the jar or glass with the string and paperclip hanging inside but not touching the sides of the jar or glass. Make sure your child covers the jar or glass with a paper towel to protect the experiment.
Last, help your child place the jar or glass in an area where it will not be disturbed, and over the next week you will both see crystals begin to grow on the string.
Quick Crystal-Growing Experiment
Your child can do this same experiment, but in several hours instead of several days and without heating the solution on the stove.
Instruct your child to combine 1/2 cup Epsom salts with 1/2 cup of hot tap water in a small bowl. Then, have them to stir the mixture for one minute until a majority of the salt has dissolved. Next, your child can add in some food coloring to the mixture to make the crystals look more interesting when they form.
Have your child set a quarter in the bottom of the bowl and set the bowl inside the fridge. After three hours, you will have a bowl full of crystals.
Use these fun experiments to increase your middle schooler's interest in science.