Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Crystal Rock Garden

Sometimes I love going back to my childhood and re-creating those memories for my children.  In my mind's eye, I can still see this Crystal Rock Garden "growing" in a pan on the kitchen table.


The Backyard Scientists books were always layin' around the house when I was a kid.  This one is the Crystal Experiment from pages 8-9.  It's very handy that all of the ingredients for these experiments can be found at the grocery store!  I made my own little modifications and I also found directions on this site.

You'll need:

  • Charcoal Briquettes (or pieces of sponge or brick or porous rock)
  • Distilled Water
  • Uniodized Salt
  • Ammonia
  • Bluing
  • Food Coloring
  • Non-Metal Pie Plate (glass is great)
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Empty Jar

  1. Place your sponge and charcoal in the non-metal pan. You want pieces that are roughly 1-inch in diameter, so you might have to break the charcoal and cut the sponges. 
  2. Spritz water, preferably distilled, onto the sponges and charcoal until it has been thoroughly dampened.
  3. In an empty jar, mix 3 tablespoons (45 ml) uniodized salt, 3 tablespoons (45 ml) ammonia, and 6 tablespoons (90 ml) bluing. Stir until the salt is dissolved.
  4. Pour the mixture over your garden.
  5. Add and swirl a bit of water around in the empty jar to pick up the remaining chemicals and pour this liquid onto the substrate, too.
  6. Drop food coloring across the surface of the 'garden'. Areas with no food coloring will be white.
  7. Sprinkle more salt (about 2 T or about 30 ml) across the 'garden'.
  8. Set the 'garden' in a warm, undisturbed area. (Crystals are very delicate!)
  9. On days 2 and 3, pour a mixture of ammonia, water, and bluing (2 tablespoons or 30 ml each) in the bottom of the pan, being careful not to disturb the delicate growing crystals.


I would say that this was probably the least kid friendly of all the experiments we've done so far.  Ammonia, rubber gloves and such made it more of "just watch Mommy do this."  (You'll notice the age on this book is for 9-14 year olds.  The other two books in the series are for 4-12 year olds.)  Still, they certainly enjoyed checking out the crystal growth each day, and there were parts of it that they could do.


Pouring on the salt and then the food coloring:

Within a few hours, it looked like this:

Day One:

Day Two:

Up close to our favorite crystals:
(I'd like a maxi skirt in that brilliant blue please.) 

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:

Day Seven:

Into the garbage can it went, and the glass dish went through the dishwasher and back into dish circulation (in case you're wondering). 
The Crystal Rock Garden is one for the scrapbooks!  :)