Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Science Rocks!

Yesterday we enjoyed finishing up the experiments in the Gems, Geodes & Cave Drippings kit. I had hoped to link you to where you could purchase it but it wasn't on the publisher's site so I'm guessing it's no longer be available. SORRY! You can look for yourself if you like: Loose in the Lab

Instead of dealing with the mess yourself, you can just enjoy more of watching us do it. :-)
We did the mineral I.D. tests last week.

We discussed that minerals are the building blocks of rocks: every rock has at least one mineral; most have more.

Here the kids are working to identify & count four different minerals in a small piece of quartz monzonite which has black, white, opaque & shiny crystals of hornblende, quartz, mica & feldspar.

After that, they got to play with fire. Don't tell anyone, but our boy scout was unable to light a match. I know he'd have done better with flint...

What they are doing here is heating caffine to make sublimated crystals.

Sublimation is a term chemists give to chemicals and compounds that are likely to change directly from a solid to a gas without passing through the liquid phase.

Our caffine actually did become liquid first (NO, I did not let anyone taste it. Anyhow, the only one who might have wanted to is Jacob & he wasn't home.)

The caffine crystals were like white needles. We looked at them under the microscope later. They appeared downright dangerous. And to think we drink this stuff!

Caleb enjoys the eye loupes. Thanks, Mom!

In an effort to simulate geode formation, Rachel adds copper sulfate to hot water.
Geode: a deposit of mineral matter that has crystallized in a pocket. The outside (rind) us usually an ugly darker material, but the inside can be very beautiful.

Caleb prepares his simutated gas pocket found in certain lava flows aka an empty egg shell or snowman head, whatever.

Earlier Mom forsees "That's mine." "No, THATS yours." and says: "Write your name on your egg shells."
Kids ask, "Mom, can we decorate them?"
Mom thinks, "Whatever for? It's not Easter."
Mom says, "If you want to." :-)

Andrew stirs and stirs, checking for saturation.
And stirs.

And stirs.

Finally, he's ready to add the mineral laden "ground water" to the decorated shells. Instructions state that "when the water evaporates, a genuine simulated geode lined with beautiful robin egg blue crystals will remain. Guaranteed better than dime store jewelry."

Then we head outside to crack open a real geode.

Instructions tell us to place it in an old sock (which you provide) & smash it with a hammer.
No problemo - especially with providing the sock. With all the guys in this house we have plenty of those. Just let me know if you ever have need of an old sock. I gotcha covered.

Wouldn't it be funny if they had provided the old sock? Can you imagine?

After poor results from tenative hammering of the ugly white rock inside the old, holey sock, tactics changed.

The kids did a great job sharing the smashing responsibilities and soon...

they conqured the geode! The ugly white rock that reminded me of dry white playdough revealed the shining crystals within. Very beautiful for a rock with gas.

I expect that somewhere someone has written a beautiful composition comparing geodes to Christians. I recall reading one about pumpkins, how God takes all the yucky stuff out then puts His light inside and gives us a smile on our face.
Geodes as a Christian metaphore? Plain on the outside but Light reflecting crystals inside. PTL that God looks on the inside.

They kept playing with fire even after that experiment was over. I lost count how many times the kit candle was relit.

I could put a better spin on that. They kept wanting to let their light shine? They wanted to share the light?

We know the truth. They wanted to play with the fire. PTL No one got burned. The house is still standing. They enjoy SCIENCE.

Then we all looked at a bunch of the different crystals & rock pieces under the scope. Even my adopted boy, Keifer.


Caleb. Yes, he has a rash. Don't ask.

& Andrew. We set the timer for 30 seconds to keep everyone moving. Isn't God amazing in how He has placed designs of such complexity all around us. >>That's a major problem for evolutionists.

These bowls contain rocks sitting in vinegar. At the top is dolomite which grows aragonite crystals which resemble popcorn, only much smaller.

At the bottom is limestone in which the calcium carbonate is dissolving, as it is supposed to, but also growing crystals, an unexpected but cool to see result. They started out spiky but now look like white broccoli standing on end. Cool science!

The pink cups are for growing cave stalactites ("c" for ceiling, hold on "tight") and stalagmites ("g" for ground, "mighty" large), Rachel added Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate powder) to warm water and stirred until it was saturated. The liquid is supposed to climb the cotton string & form the crystal cave creatures between the string & the lid. So far though, nothings happening. As you can see from their faces, they have high hopes.

This activity's purpose was to produce crystals by evaporation. A bottle of crystal growing solution (yellow like the sponge) was poured over the provided sponge into the provided pie tin. We did not realize that the pie tin came with at least one tiny hole. By the time we noticed, there was a bit of a mess on top of the microwave
which we sopped up with this old cloth diaper rag.

Here's the GG&CD recipe to make your own:
50 ml table salt
10 ml ammonia
100 ml water
50 ml laundry bluing

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour onto a large sponge (or any porous material - as we experienced!) To add some color, put drops of food coloring on whatever you pour the liquid on, after adding the solution.

A caution from the kit: "Avoid snorting fumes from the ammonia directly. They do nothing to improve your personality."

If you look closely you'll see crystals growing on the sponge, in the pie plate, all over the rag and on the surrounding area of the microwave. I neglected to photograph Stan's glasses which had some crystallization from sitting in the fluid. Had I realized we'd have white crystals on a white rag on a white microwave, I'd have added some food color!

The kids still had to do some other stuff. Here's Rachel in her favorite spot working on her math.
Note: Every time I uploaded this photo it turned sideways. Yes, I tried several times because it bugs me when things are not right. I'm sure that somehow it is my fault, I just haven't yet figured out how!

I believe Caleb is working on his online school, so that's either Spanish (thus the headphones with microphone) or Computing for College & Career, in which case he's jammin' while workin'.

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