Projects

Grow your own Geodes!

January 30, 2017

It’s been pretty grey around here lately. And, while searching the skies for traces of blue and refreshing the 10-day forecast in hopes of seeing sun have been fun enough…it seems about time to take matters into our own hands. Ready. Set. Sparkle.

This project is probably happening more often in grade school classrooms than in the kitchen. It’s a great lesson in crystal formation, liquid to solid states, temperature, saturation, evaporation, and minerals.

Also it’s sparkly.

The majority of this project happens in the 5-10 hours that you leave it alone, so this is a good one to start in the afternoon or evening. That way you don’t have to rely on willpower to resist messing with things before they’re ready to be messed with. (scientific terms) And bonus, you have an exciting reason to skip the snooze button. You (or I) can’t help but be a weirdly wonderful combination of wowed and proud when you realize you just grew your own crystals.

 

You’ll need:

glass jars or heat proof deep containers (I used large mason jars)

colored pipe cleaners (fuzzy not metallic)

thread/string

food coloring

chop stick/pencil/skewer

gloves

dish towel

1 box of Borax (find this in the laundry detergent aisle)*

*borax is safe to use (not to eat) in this project. Boric acid is super not safe.

First, create your geode shapes. I created an oval shape and then used 3-4 pipe cleaners to wrap around the base to create a solid surface. Feel free to experiment with shapes and sizes. Just know that it will be larger with crystals, and  needs to fit into AND out of your container. Your geode crystals will be close to the color of your pipe cleaners, enhanced with the colored water.

Tie a thread to one end of your pipe cleaner shape, and the other end to your chop stick/pencil/etc. Test out the length in your container to make certain the geode won’t touch the bottom or sides of your container. If it’s touching or too close, the crystals will attach the geode to the side of your container, resulting in a beautiful but sad crystal ship in a bottle situation.

Boil a pot of water (I’m not offering exact measurements here because it’ll vary based on your container).

While your water is boiling, read the next steps so you’re all set up since you’ll want to move quickly while your water is hot.

Once your water is boiling, pour it into your container. Immediately pour in your borax starting with a few tablespoons. I poured a little at a time directly from the box. Stir your solution until the borax is completely dissolved. Here’s where it’s great (though not necessary) to have an assistant, since you can stir and watch the solution while they pour more borax as needed. Repeat this stir and pour process until the water can’t hold any more borax and it won’t dissolve. It’s important to act while the water is still as hot as possible so that you’re certain the borax is given the best chance to dissolve. The goal here is to create an overly saturated solution, since that’s what forces the solids out of the water to form crystals. Science!

Add your food coloring to the solution and hang your pipe cleaner (making certain it’s not touching the sides).

The best crystals will form when the solution cools slowly, so it’s helpful to wrap your container in a dish towel or place a magazine over the top to contain the heat for as long as possible.

Now… leave it alone! Okay, you can check on it in a few hours but don’t remove it yet.

After 5-10 hours, your geode should be covered in crystals and ready for your admiration.

These beauties are super strong (I couldn’t remove mine from a glass jar when I let it grow too large). Some people have mentioned that they lose their shine or oxidize, turning milky after a few weeks. I’m covering mine with a clear varnish to (hopefully) prevent that from happening.  I’ll keep you posted on its success.

Up next and coming soon… now I have a geode. What do I do with it?

You mean besides everything?? Oh, I have ideas.

 

 

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