Monday, September 13, 2010

Rockin' minerals--and rock candy

To elaborate on our science fact this week, you may to try to grow your own crystals with household items. Note: This takes a few days, so you may want to start early in the week. Consider using this site's description to make a clear tie into our science fact; scroll to the bottom, click on "Fun Activities", and then "Growing Crystals Activity".

(Note: To tie the crystals discussion into math, you may consider discussing geometry this week, namely three-dimensional figures [corners, faces, prisms, cubes, etc.]--a discussion made a little more hands on by swiping rectangular prisms of cereal boxes, cylinders of tin cans or marshmallows, or construction-paper cones from around the house [with boys, my clan will probably go on an imaginary archery hunt around the house and shoot cubes, pyramids, spheres, etc.]. The latter site mentioned above mentions these three-dimensional figures and how they affect the formations of crystals. This could even be turned into a drawing lesson of 3D shapes...but I digress.)

But as an alternative, I think we're going to attempt making rock candy! You may just have to check out this cool photo tutorial. My kids are going to love this, and edible experiments definitely grease the homeschool wheels over here.

Without telling them, see if your kids can identify why the crystals you make wouldn't qualify as minerals. Our man-made rock candy won't qualify as minerals like halite (i.e. table salt) crystals would, because cane sugar is organic as opposed to inorganic, and even in the first (salt) experiment, our homegrown crystals are man-made, not naturally occurring. Yes, I had to look that up.

This Learning Zone site is a great intro to minerals including the Moh scale, and I love how this site compares minerals to, of all things, a cake.

And as much as I've tried to change it up, our science work still often goes best to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell", which I'd recommend this week.

You might consider making or having your student make five flashcards of minerals' characteristics, possibly in five different colors and/or fonts (maybe even pictures!) for all those visual learners out there. From the Learning Zone site hyperlinked above:

•Minerals are naturally occurring
They are not made by humans

•Minerals are inorganic
They have never been alive and are not made up from plants or animals

•Minerals are solids
They are not liquids (like water), or gases (like the air around you)

•Minerals have a definite chemical composition
Each one is made of a particular mix of chemical elements

•Minerals have an ordered atomic arrangement
The chemical elements that make up each mineral are arranged in a particular way - this is why minerals 'grow' as crystals


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