Silver Deposits and Redox Reactions: High School Chemistry Students Conduct “Seasonal” Experiment

Recently, Mount Madonna School (MMS) 10th grade students explored “redox reactions” – a high school chemistry class version of holiday crafting – during a lab activity. A redox reaction, also known as oxidation reduction, is a reaction that involves the transfer of electrons between “chemical species” or the atoms, ions or molecules involved in the reaction.

The students were transitioning between studying ionic compounds and chemical reactions and teacher Lisa Catterall offered them a “perfect experiment” to reinforce their learning and to prepare them for the next unit.

“As students performed a four-step reaction inside a glass ball, the result of the final reaction is that silver ions are deposited on the glass,” explained Catterall. “This was an early chemical method of producing mirrors, and it makes for lovely uneven silver deposits on the balls for a handmade ornament. This is a lab we have done in chemistry for the last decade. It works well because it combines arts and crafts with chemical reactions.”

For an upcoming unit on electrochemistry, students will try electroforming with copper. They have chosen small items from nature during a recent campus hike. The items are currently drying and pressing. The students will create graphite paint in the lab and will paint the items, then submerge them in copper sulfate and run a current through the solution to make beautiful copper objects.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.