Colorful, Growing Science: Third Grade Crystal Trees

Colorful and oh, so delicate, Mount Madonna School third graders really enjoyed a recent hands-on chemistry lesson, that engaged them in growing miniature ‘crystal trees’ on their classroom tabletops.
‘They are so fragile,’ commented third grade teacher Hamsa Heinrich, ‘in addition to an engaging science experiment, it’s also a lesson in the temporary nature of all things!’
The project began with students combining carefully measured amount of water with a crystal-solution powder, swirling the mixture together with plastic spoons to dissolve the powder. Then the mixture was poured onto the top of an upside down paper cup, which has a low rim and holds a small amount of the solution.
Next, students assembled paper ‘trees’ and stood them in the solution, so that their bases could absorb the liquid. In about fifteen minutes, to their delight and amazement, tiny crystals began forming on the colored points of the paper tree, absorbing color from the specially-treated paper as they grew.
‘In a little less than an hour crystals formed,’ wrote third grader Sam Kaplan in his science notebook. ‘Soon, on the tip of the paper tree there was 1 ‘ centimeters of crystal growth.’
Over about three hours, students wrote down their observations and made predictions about what might happen, while Heinrich shared information about chemical solutions, wicking, evaporation and crystal formation. They also composed poetry based on their observations:
Green solution 
With an upside-down cup
Paper-wicking tree 
with rainbow-colored tips
Sunset-colored crystals 
Growing down my cup, 
That’s my tree 
Growing, growing down my cup
Crystals all around
My tiny tree 
About two paper clips tall
I love it with all my heart
                  — Mariah Cohen, 3rd Grade
‘The resulting ‘trees’ are really pretty and the students love them,’ said Heinrich. ‘Yes, they are so fragile even a sneeze can destroy them!  But watching a liquid rearrange itself and become solid is fascinating.’
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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.