Ancient Egyptian Cartouche Bookmark

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For history, the three oldest and I are traveling back through time with The Mystery of History, Volume 1: Creation to the Resurrection by Linda Lacour Hobar. There are a number of reasons why I like this curriculum so much for our family.  First, it works for a variety of ages at the same time.  When I’m reading aloud about the Mycenaens or the Trojan Horse, the older three (and sometimes even the three-year-old) are able to listen and follow along.  Secondly, it starts at creation and goes through history chronologically, making sure to highlight what is going on in various parts of the world at the same time.  It takes away from the disjointed feel of a lot of history curriculum.  The book encourages you to make a timeline so the kids can easily see what happened when.  We are all very visual learners so we have been having a lot of fun making our timeline.  My favorite part of Mystery of History, however, is the plethora of extra projects and ideas included in the text.  In case you couldn’t tell from all my art and experiment posts, I love to do extra projects with my kids!

When we studied early Egypt a few months back, one of the suggested projects was making an ancient Egyptian cartouche bookmark.  (It’s on page 95 in case you needed to find it.)  I loved the idea, and together we came up with our own version of this bookmark. A cartouche was a intricate box that featured pictures representing the name of an important person. You can learn more about cartouches here. 

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own ancient Egyptian cartouche bookmark: a piece of white cardstock, a pencil, scissors, an exacto knife, a glue stick, a hole puncher,  gold acrylic paint, black paint, gold pipe cleaner, and paper towels

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First, you will need to make two templates out of your card stock.  Draw a oval shape like the one above with the “handle” underneath, and cut it out. Then trace it again on your card stock and cut out a second matching shape.  On one of your templates, draw your name in hieroglyphics. (There is a key to the Egyptian alphabet in the back of the Mystery of History book, but if you don’t have that, you can use this easy site. You just type in your name, and it shows you what your name looks like in hieroglyphics.)

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Next, cut out the hieroglyphs with the exacto knife or a very sharp pair of scissors.  Don’t worry if you have some rough edges – they will smoothed out when you paint it later.

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Using a glue stick, glue the template with the hieroglyphs on it on top of the blank template.and let dry. Punch a hole in the top with the hole puncher.

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Paint the whole bookmark gold and let dry.

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Using a bunched up paper towel, dab a little black paint on top of the gold and smudge it around to give the bookmark an aged look.

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Finally, cut small pieces of the gold pipe cleaner and glue them to the bottom “handle.” Cut a larger piece to insert through the punched hole, and then twist it to secure it.

Now you’ve got a very fancy and mysterious bookmark indeed!  Use it to mark the latest lesson in your history book.

 

 

Egg Carton Crafts: Crabs

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We have made a lot of fun sea creatures with coffee filters (jellyfish, sea horses, and sea turtles); so now it’s time to move on to a new medium.  Our family of six eats a lot of eggs, giving us an egg carton or two every week to be creative with.  A few months ago, we studied crabs, and I thought how perfect an egg carton section would be for the carapace of a crab.

These snappy little crustaceans were a blast to learn about.  We borrowed multiple books from the library (our favorites being Crabs by Mary Jo Rhodes, The Magic School Bus Gets Crabby by Kristin Earhart, and A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle).  We examined hermit crabs at the pet store and found discarded crab legs at the beach. We watched a video about the amazing sandbubbler crab at National Geographic and learned about tiny crabs that help keep coral reefs clean at National Geographic for Kids.  In our research, we discovered that it is cruel to keep a hermit crab as a pet.  We learned about horseshoe crabs (not really crabs), spider crabs, and king crabs, but we decided that our favorite was the robber crab (also known as the coconut crab). Check out this video about this crab that likes to steal silverware and sneakers!

Now, let’s get on to making some cute little egg carton crabs.

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Here’s what you need to complete this project: two wooden spring clothespins, an egg carton section, paint, paintbrush, two flexible drinking straws, two pipe cleaners, two googly eyes, scissors, and glue (you can use school glue but I opted to use a hot glue gun for speed and security for the clothespin pincers.)

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First, you will paint your carapace (the egg carton section) and pincers (clothespins).  Some of my kids used lots of colors and lots of paint, and others were much more sparing. Allow to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

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Cut each pipe cleaner into four equal sections so that you have eight legs total. Cut the tops off each flexible drinking straw underneath the bendy part.

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Start gluing your crab together.  I began with the pincers, asking the child how they wanted the pincers positioned on the body and then gluing them on.  I held them tight to the carapace for a few minutes while the glue set up.  Then I glued on the legs underneath the carapace, bending them out and then giving them a little bend in the middle for the “knee.” Finally, I glued the straws to the top of the carapace as eye stalks and added the googly eyes on top of those.

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These adorable crusty creatures make great decorations but can be useful as well.  Gabi’s crab sits on my kitchen windowsill and holds recipe cards with its pincers.  David gave his to his therapist, and she uses it at her desk to hold memos and photos.

And, if you are feeling pretty technical and want to be super accurate with your egg carton crab, go ahead and give him two more pipe cleaner legs.  Crabs are decapods, meaning they have ten limbs. We did eight because artistic license and all that. (and maybe I forgot that little fact when we were creating this craft?) Just maybe.

Coffee Filter Crafts: Sea Turtles

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Last week, I woke up to a dreadful discovery: my Keurig machine was not working. After several desperate attempts to fix it, it became clear that a new machine must be purchased. Stat.   And so we carted away the old machine and said hello to a shiny, red, and most importantly, operable model to fuel my daily caffeine needs.  I briefly considered getting a regular coffee maker, but ultimately opted for the convenience and ease of a Keurig.  Therefore, my giant pack of coffee filters is still ready for crafting projects.

In keeping with our ocean animals unit study, we decided to make sea turtles next.  (You can find instructions to make coffee filter jellyfish here and coffee filter sea horses here.)  Sea turtles were a favorite to study around here – we probably spent over two weeks examining the lives and habits of these cute sea creatures.  We borrowed lots of sea turtle books from the library – my favorite was Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.  It tells a real-life story of a mom and her daughter helping sea turtle babies get to the ocean safely with beautiful drawings and photographs of sea turtles and other ocean life.  There are fun and thought-provoking activities included at the end of the book.  Of course, we also love the drawings and easy-to-understand text of Gail Gibbons’ books, and her Sea Turtles is no exception.  For our online resources, I found this link to a free sea turtles unit study and used some of its printables, like the Sea Turtle Anatomy Matchbook.  The kids enjoyed tracking sea turtles on SEATURTLE.ORG.  Sea World’s website also had a lot of information on sea turtles for the kids to practice looking up.  Netflix and Hulu and YouTube are all great resources for sea turtle videos – this one was my kids’ favorite: 

All right, let’s make some super cute sea turtles!

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Here’s what you will need: lima beans, washable markers, styrofoam bowls, chalk pastels, craft glue, paper, and of course, coffee filters.

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First, flip the bowl upside down and glue lima beans all over the top and around the rim of the bowl.  Let dry completely before going to the next step.

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Next, get out those markers and color all over those lima beans!  (Painting them would work too, but we needed a break from painting around here.)

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Now, take two coffee filters and fold each of them in half. Color them with your chalk pastels however you like.  To keep the chalk dust from rubbing off your sea turtle project, spray the filters with a fine mist of aerosol hairspray.

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Then, cut each of your folded coffee filters in half and glue them to the underside of the turtle’s body (the bowl) as shown.  Cut out a triangle shape and a turtle head shape from your paper and glue on in the appropriate spots.

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Use the markers to decorate the turtle head and tail.  Your colorful sea turtle can sit (swim, I mean!) nicely on a shelf, or you can use thumb tacks to hang it on the wall.

Did you know that leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds?  That’s like half my minivan!  Thankfully these coffee filter sea turtles are a lot lighter (and a lot cuter than the leatherback, in my opinion!)

 

 

Coffee Filter Crafts: Jellyfish

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If your kids had fun making the coffee filter seahorse craft, they will certainly enjoy adding these jellyfish to their art aquarium.  They are made with the same technique of washable markers and water and have long tentacles that sway in the breeze.

The topic of jellyfish made an engaging subject in our ocean animals unit study.  As with the seahorses, we borrowed some books from the library to begin our quest for information on these magnificent creatures. (Jellyfish by Louis Spilsbury, Box Jellyfish: Killer Tentacles by Natalie Lunis, and Portuguese Man-of-War: Floating Misery by Natalie Lunis.)  We followed these books up with some videos on YouTube so that we could actually see jellyfish in action.

Here are ten things you may not have known about jellyfish before:

1.  A jellyfish does not have a brain.

2.  Jellyfish come in all sorts of colors: pink, blue, red, even multi-colored.

3.  A jellyfish’s body consists of a polyp, or float, on top and many tentacles dangling below.  The mouth is underneath the polyp.

4.  A jellyfish’s tentacles are filled with toxins used to hurt or paralyze their prey, which can be little fish, other jellyfish, crabs, and plankton.

5.  A group of jellyfish is called a bloom, a swarm, or a smack.

6.  Some jellyfish can glow in the dark.

7.  Jellyfish are a favorite snack of sea turtles.

8.  The Portuguese Man-of-War is not actually a jellyfish.  It is a group of organisms that live together and function together as a whole.

9.  Most jellyfish have a life-span of a few hours to a few months.

10.  Jellyfish range in size from very tiny (thumbnail size) to very large (whale size).

Now, let’s make some coffee filter jellyfish.

You will need: 2 coffee filters, washable markers, water, a paintbrush, a paper plate,  plastic grocery bags, a stapler, party streamers, and some tape

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First, lay your coffee filters one on top of another on the paper plate. Color dots and swirls and scribbles however you like (just like we did when we made the seahorse) on the top coffee filter with the washable markers.  Then, with the coffee filters still stacked up on top of each other, paint over the top filter with water until the colors are swirled to your satisfaction.

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When the coffee filters are dry, staple the outer edges together as shown, leaving a small opening on one side.  Insert the plastic grocery bags into the opening until the polyp is nice and full and then staple shut.

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Next, cut varying lengths of your party streamers and tape to the bottom of your coffee filter polyp.  (I found a couple of rolls of blue and yellow in the junk drawer, so blue and yellow it was for us!)  Use fishing line or thread to hang your jellyfish from the ceiling.

For a short while, we hung our jellyfish in the entrance of our dining room.  They added a beautiful pop of color and a touch of movement to the area, but they were too distracting when you had to walk underneath them.  We ended up moving our jellyfish to a safer location in a corner of the dining room instead.

Get creative!  Think another material besides party streamers would work for the tentacles?  Try it and see!  As with many other ocean animals, the different types of jellyfish vary widely in shape, size, colors, textures, and even the way they move.

And while you are creating your jellyfish masterpiece, you may want to try reading aloud Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High by John Fardell.  It’s a funny picture book for the kindergarten set but will be sure to entertain the older kids as well.

 

Coffee Filter Crafts: Seahorses

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This year in science, we have been studying ocean animals.  We have checked out library books on sharks, watched videos about octopuses, studied the starfish, and really have enjoyed investigating in depth the many creatures of our oceans.  The kids are making ocean animal notebooks to go along with our study, but I have also tried to incorporate arts and crafts into our unit study as often as I can.  Doing something creative with your hands helps solidify learning and makes it more fun, especially for the hands-on learners.

A while ago we examined the lives and characteristics of seahorses.  We borrowed some books from the library (Seahorses and Sea Dragons by Mary Jo Rhodes and Seahorses:Everything About History, Care, Nutrition, Handling, and Behavior by Frank Indiviglio) and learned amazing things about these fascinating creatures.  We found that YouTube has some great educational videos on seahorses as well:

So what did we learn?  Here are ten facts about these little equine-looking sea creatures.

1.  Seahorses have the ability to change color and sometimes even their texture to blend into their surroundings, such as seaweed, various types of coral, and sea anemones.

2.  Seahorses are monogamous, mostly because they cannot swim very well, making it difficult enough to find one partner in life.

3.  Seahorses greet their partners every day with an elaborate dance and an intertwining of their tails before they venture off to find food.

4.  Seahorses have prehensile tails just like monkeys do, which means they can use them to grab onto coral or another seahorse.

5.  Seahorses have few enemies because they are too bony and too hard to eat, but often crabs are willing to try.

6.  Seahorses eat plankton, tiny fish, and small crustaceans by sucking them through their snouts like a vacuum cleaner. They have to eat constantly or they will die.

7.  Seahorses are the only animal species in which the male is the one that gives birth to their young.

8.  Seahorse swim upright.

9.  Seahorses are actually fish, as they breathe with gills, have some fins, and use a swim bladder to float.

10.  Seahorses can measure anywhere from less than an inch to more than fourteen inches long.

And now that we know a little about seahorses, let’s gather a few supplies to make a coffee filter seahorse.

You will need:  a coffee filter, washable markers in bright colors, a paintbrush, water, a paper plate, a googly eye, scissors, a glue stick, and a seahorse template such as this one

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First, flatten the coffee filter on top of the paper plate.  Have your child draw all over the coffee filter with the washable markers.  Big circles of color work the best.

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Next, give your child some water and a paint brush and let them thoroughly paint over the coffee filter.  It’s okay if they use too much water as it will dry. (eventually!)Lay the coffee filter and plate in a warm place to dry.  (I put ours on top of our dryer!)

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Once the filter is dry, show your child how to cut it up into small triangles and squares.  Then, instruct them to glue them to their seahorse page, overlapping them like the bony fins of a seahorse and covering the entire animal’s body.  More overlap will produce a prettier effect.

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Finally, glue on a googly eye and hang the completed art in a conspicuous spot for all to admire.

I think the results of this craft are very Eric Carle-like.  In fact, he has written a cute book called Mister Seahorse that features bright watercolor seahorses in the illustrations. That might be a fun read-aloud while the kids are doing this craft.

Cupcake Crochet Gift Basket – Tutorial

My mom first taught me to crochet when I was nine or ten years old.  I remember making that first laborious “dog leash” for my Pound Puppy and then moving on to other projects, like dish cloths and dolly blankets and Barbie doll clothes.  I loved that I could take something as simple as a ball of yarn and turn it into something practical and beautiful.  Somehow along the way, in the busyness of life and the pull of other things, I lost this little hobby of mine.  Yes, I pulled out my hooks to make a sweet baby blanket for my first child and occasionally picked them up to create something as a gift.  Mostly, though, my few hooks and random skeins of yarn lay buried in the back of my closet.

Enter my beloved friend and all-time nemesis, Pinterest.  While casually browsing one night a couple months before Christmas, I saw a pin for a cute Christmas coaster pattern.  Oh, I should totally do some handmade gifts this year, I thought rather irrationally.  Forgetting that Gabi was dancing in seven performances of The Nutcracker Tea and that all the holiday family stuff was happening at my house, I fatally entered the search term “crochet” in Pinterest and began to pin away.  You can see the results of my madness here on my Pinterest board entitled nonchalantly “Crochet Time.”  Yes, that is a total of 114 pins. . .so far.  If I did nothing but crochet and somehow have an insane amount of money to spend on yarn, I still would not be able to complete all those projects in my lifetime.  Well, I did not actually complete anything in time for Christmas.  But, I did get a blanket almost done (I’m in the not-fun process of tucking in yarn ends right now) and have gone on to do a few more projects.  In taking up these new endeavors, I rediscovered the calm and joy that comes with making something for someone else.

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Pictured here is a basket-weave project I am still working on in my favorite colors.  I made Gabi the Legend of Zelda hat and Tri-force wrist warmers for her birthday. (bought the pattern from Level Up Nerd Apparel on Etsy and highly recommend it.  It was easy to follow, and I learned something new – changing colors in the middle of a row and back again.)

I have a friend who loves to crochet also.  Her teens ask for her to make Pokemon and Star Wars and all sorts of clever amigurumi creatures, and she delivers.  She happens to be the leader of our homeschool co-op as well.  Back in November when we were finishing up our fall term of co-op, we thought it would be nice to give her a special gift to honor her for all she does to make the co-op a success.  I wanted the gift to be meaningful and not just a hastily bought Starbucks card (although, not knocking Starbucks cards here – they do make great gifts.)  I decided to make her a gift basket of sorts with her favorite things – crochet and hot chocolate.  While wandering around the craft store trying to figure out how to put it all together, I came up with an idea.  I was going to make it look like cupcakes!  And this is what I made:

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It turned out pretty adorable, if I do say so myself.  I wanted to share here how I made it in case any of you need a creative gift for the crocheter or knitter in your life.

Okay, so you will need:  three skeins of yarn in the recipients’ favorite colors, three red pom poms, three wooden toothpicks, large paper cupcake liners, white tissue paper, curling ribbon, cupcake stickers, tape, scissors, and a metal or plastic bucket.  (Check to make sure your skeins fit into the bucket and don’t stick up too far from the rim)

Optional: a travel cup with gourmet chocolate packets tucked inside, a crochet pattern book  (Pick things that will work for the gift recipient.)

Now put it together:

First make your “cupcakes” with the yarn skeins.  For each cupcake, take two paper cupcake liners and cut out the bottom of each one so that you are left with just the crimped sides of the liners. Put one of the trimmed liners around the top of a yarn skein like a collar.  It will probably not be quite big enough; so cut off what you need from the second trimmed line and tape into place. (Sorry for the lack of photos of this process.  I hurried to get this done and only snapped a phone photo at the end.) Do this for all three skeins.  Top off your “cupcakes” with a sweet little “cherry” by pushing a toothpick through a red pom pom and then inserting it into the top of the yarn skein.

Carefully put all three “cupcakes” into the bucket and add any extra treats to fill up the bucket.  Fill in all remaining gaps with the white tissue paper.  Be sure to put plenty of the tissue paper around the yarn skeins so that you will not see any yarn at the bottom of the cupcake liners.

Decorate the bucket with cupcake stickers.  Cut long pieces of the curling ribbon (I found my cupcake ribbon at Walmart) and curl with a scissors blade.  Insert the ribbon curls evenly around the bucket and trim to fit.

It’s a perfect gift to satisfy the “sweet tooth” of any yarn artist. 😉

Crystal Science – Make Your Own Snowflake

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Back when we were in a flurry of activity (ha, do you see what I did there?) preparing for Hosanna’s Do You Wanna Build a Snowman party, the older kids became obsessed with snow and snowflakes and basically anything white and cold and fun.  We rarely get any real snow around here; so we settled for cutting out paper snowflakes, spraying fake snow in our windows, and building snowmen with homemade magic snow (link here to awesome recipe).  One day, when everyone was going stir crazy and I was desperately trying to think of a fun but educational activity to do, I remembered a crystal growing project I had done with my General Science class at home school co-op.  I figured that we could take out the typical string and use something else to make it into a snowflake.  The results ended up being quite sparkly, perfect for our snow obsession as well as a little lesson on crystals.  Here’s how to make crystal snowflakes and learn a little about crystals at the same time.

If you google “growing crystals,” most sites will give you a formula using borax.  Borax is great and is pretty sturdy; but alas, I did not have borax when we commenced this experiment.  I decided to use alum instead.  Alum makes beautiful crystals that are much more fragile and will not last a long time; however, they grow very quickly and you will see results within hours.  When you purchase your alum, make sure it has potassium in it or crystals will not grow.  I got mine in the spice section of the grocery store.  (In case your kids ask you what alum is, its official name is potassium alum, and it is used for pickling and other household activities.  It is also found in your can of baking powder, unless you buy the fancy expensive kind in the natural foods section labeled “without alum.”)

For this experiment, you will need:  alum, a white pipe cleaner, a drinking glass or mason jar, a pencil, another pipe cleaner (any color), fishing line or thread, scissors, and water  (You also need a small pan and access to a stove.)

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First, prepare your materials.  Cut the white pipe cleaner into three pieces of equal length and then twist them together in an asterisk shape. *  Tie a piece of fishing line or thread to one of the points on your “snowflake”.

Now, make your solution.  Put enough water to fill your glass or jar into a small pan and heat it to boiling on the stove.  When the water is boiling, remove the pan from the burner and wait for the boiling to stop.  As soon as the boiling stops, start adding alum to the water and stirring with a heat-resistant spoon.  Keep adding alum until it will no longer dissolve.  (This is evident when the water is cloudy and will not clear up.)  Allow the solution to sit in the pan for a few minutes until it is again clear and any extra alum has settled to the bottom of the pan.

Next, set up the experiment.  Carefully pour the solution into your glass or jar until it is high enough for your snowflake to fit.  We used a juice glass and filled ours about three-fourths.  If you can, try not to pour the alum that has settled in the bottom of the pan into your glass.  This is called decanting, or separating a mixture into liquids and sediment.  As you can see in the photo, we were not terribly successful in our decanting.  Then take your pipe cleaner snowflake and dangle it in the solution.  It is very important that the points of the snowflake do not touch the sides or the bottom of the glass.  When you have it at the right place, tie it to the pencil and reinforce it by wrapping it with the other pipe cleaner as shown in the picture.  DSC_0017

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Be sure to put your set-up in a safe place out of the way.  We set ours back on the kitchen counter where they couldn’t be disturbed for several hours.  (Also, we have a certain three-year-old around here who loves to stir things up and add things as she “cooks” so….)  As you can see, each child had his own snowflake to grow.  We have a color system in our house that makes life so much easier.  Gabi’s color is green, David’s is blue, Mikey’s is orange, and Hosanna’s is purple.  That means Gabi drinks out of the green cup, uses a green plate, has a green bin for her shoes, etc.  It makes it a breeze for me to know who left their cup in the living room again, and most importantly, there is no arguing.

Anyway, I digress.  Call it a free tip.  So let your experiment sit for several hours, checking on it from time to time by looking through the glass, NOT by touching it.  After several hours have passed, or the next day as I like to call it, carefully use your pencil to lift the snowflake out of the solution and lay it gently on a clean surface.  Remember that the alum crystals are very fragile and have a tendency to get knocked off easily.

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This is when you get to do the observation of the snowflake.  Have the kids touch it and feel the various shapes that make up the crystals.  Look at the crystals with a magnifying glass.  See if they can find a repeating shape or pattern in the snowflake.  Gently tap one point of the snowflake with a pencil to knock off some crystals and examine those crystals more closely.  What do they look like?  Are they symmetrical?  Then you can teach the kids some facts about crystals.

Facts about Crystals: Going Beyond the Fact that They are Super Sparkly and Very Fun to Look At

1.  What is a crystal?  It is a mineral that is made up of molecules that form a repeating pattern.  These molecules band together to form a shape that is then repeated over and over again.  Take out a crystal of sugar and look at it under a magnifying glass.  Do you see that it is shaped almost like a football?  Now look at a crystal of salt.  You should see that it is shaped like a cube.  What shape did you find in your snowflake?

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In this picture, you can see points that look like pyramids.  Alum crystals actually have an octahedron shape (two pyramids stacked on top of each other).  There were actually dozens of nearly-perfect octahedrons on our snowflake the second time we did the experiment, and they were all visible without a magnifying glass.  When studying crystals, you will find hexagons, tetragons, and other shapes as well.

2.  Where do crystals come from?  Crystals form in two different ways.  The first is by evaporation of water from a mixture.  This is what we did in our experiment.  As the water evaporated, the alum powder formed into tiny crystals.  The second way is by cooling of a liquid as it starts to harden.  Expensive crystals like diamonds are formed when magma hardens slowly over time.  Maybe you have seen rubies, emeralds, and amethysts.  These are all crystals that have formed in nature by evaporation or cooling.  Of course, snowflake are ice crystals that form when water cools very quickly in the atmosphere.

3.  Why do crystals have sharp edges and angles?  Crystals have symmetry.  Symmetry is just a big fancy word that means “the same all around.”  There are a few different kinds of symmetry that you can find in crystals.  The first is called rotational symmetry.  Basically it means that when you spin the crystal around, it is the same from all sides.  Think of a ferris wheel.  Every time you spin it, it looks exactly the same.  The second kind of symmetry is reflection symmetry.  In this case, one half of the crystal is a mirror image of the other.  Think of a butterfly and how the wings look like a reflection of each other.  The third kind of symmetry is inversion symmetry.  Imagine that you can put a straight line through the center of the crystal and then spin the crystal around that line as if it were an axis.  This is what you see in our experiment.  It is very similar to a toy top.

Want to know more?  Learn what the terms cleavage, isometric, and monoclinic mean, and find out what crystals are used for in the videos below.

And if you want to watch a snowflake form its crystals in time lapse, check out this link!  It is very mesmerizing and illustrates all the principles of crystals we have learned.