Today, is the second of a two-day dinosaur project. Yesterday, your children made the dinosaur; today, they will make the dinosaur’s home. You are going to make a Crystal Garden. This is such a cool science project that ALL children enjoy!
This garden will produce very nice, broccoli-like salt crystals from readily available ingredients. They tend to be fragile… but quite beautiful. And, they look just like a dinosaur’s home!
1 clear container per child (plastic-to-go dishes work well)
several small pieces of porous material to grow on per container (sponges, clay pot pieces, BBQ briquettes (I use these), etc.)
laundry bluing (such as Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing (you can find it at Alberston’s); be careful, it stains)
1 small paper cup to mix ingredients
1 plastic spoon
food coloring (optional, but so cool)
Begin by mixing 2 Tablespoons of salt with 4 Tablespoons of water, stirring to dissolve as much salt as possible. Next add 2 Tablespoons each of ammonia and laundry bluing, again mixing as you go. The mixture will be a blue, watery sludge. Pour the sludge, liquid and extra salt, on top of the porous substrate in the plastic dish. Make sure to get all the salt out of the mixing cup and onto the porous items in the plastic dish. All the salt may not go into the solution; that’s okay as long as you pour the extra salt on top of the items in the dish. The porous materials in the dish will not immediately soak up all the liquid; this is okay. The crystals will naturally grow white, like the salt. If you want colored crystals, add a drop or two of food coloring on each item in the dish. The crystals will grow that color.
Allow the container to sit open to the atmosphere overnight. By the next day, crystals should have formed on the items in the dish and your crystal garden should be starting to bloom. you can keep the garden “in bloom” by adding 2 more Tablespoons of salt on the second day, then half batches of the whole mixture from time to time. Make sure to pour the liquid into the base of the container and not on top of the already formed crystal blooms, as it will dissolve them and you will have to start over (which is also a lot of fun!).
The garden is formed by the salt after the water and ammonia evaporate away. The ammonia helps to speed the evaporation of the liquid from the mixture. The laundry bluing helps to form crystal blooms instead of crystal chunks or plates. The bluing solution is actually a colloidal suspension; it has very small particles that will not dissolve, but are held up and separated by the liquid. As the water evaporates away, the salt forms crystals using the colloidal particles as seed, or nucleus, for growth. The liquid mixture and the salt are pulled away from the bottom of the container up to the tops of the porous material by capillary action, much the same way water spreads through a sponge. This allows you to add more mixture to the bottom and have your garden bloom and grow forever. You could experiment by leaving out the ammonia or bluing, or changing the ratios in the recipe.
When your dinosaur is dry and sturdy, place it in its new home. Be sure to have your children create names for both their dinosaur and habitat.