Make a Crystal Snowflake

Snowflake and crystals

For such a tiny, short-lived thing, snowflakes are filled to the brim with wonder! Did you know:

  • A snowflake’s shape is determined by the humidity and temperature when it is formed. The colder the temperature, the more complex the shape.
  • Snow isn’t actually white: it’s translucent! It appears to be white because the many sides of the snowflake make light scatter, diffusing the colour spectrum so we see white. 
  • Snowflakes always have 6 sides. The water molecules that snowflakes are made of can only fit together in a way that results in a six-sided ice crystal. Fun activity:  Pop on some black mittens, go outside when the snow is flying, and test this one out – are all the snowflakes you see 6 sided?
  • The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. It allegedly fell in Fort Keogh, Montana in January of 1887, and while we can’t confirm it, scientists do agree it was possible.

Snowflakes are just amazing!  So, let’s make one ourselves:

What you need:

  • 1 Pipe cleaner (ideally white, but any colour will work)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • String, about 20 cm
  • Wide-mouthed jar
  • Boiling water (enough to fill the jar)
  • Borax (found in the laundry section of most grocery stores): 3 tablespoons for every 1 cup of boiling water needed to fill your jar

What to do:

  • Cut the pipe cleaner into 3 equal sections, and then twist the sections together to form a 6-sided snowflake shape.  Feel free to trim any excess off so all 6 sides are roughly equal.  Be sure as well that your snowflake can fit into the mouth of the jar. 
  • Tie one end of your string to an arm of the snowflake, and the other to the middle of the pencil. You want the length to be such that the snowflake is dangling inside the jar without touching the bottom.
  • Fill the jar with boiling water (an adult should help with this part!).
  • Add Borax 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after every addition.  In total, you will need about 3 tablespoons of Borax per 1 cup of boiling water.  
  • Hang your snowflake in the water and Borax mixture by resting the pencil on the top of the jar and ensuring your snowflake is not touching the bottom of the jar.
  • Allow the jar to rest in an undisturbed location overnight.

Now, make some predictions (we call that a hypothesis – what you think may happen): how do you think the snowflake will look in the morning?  When you wake up tomorrow, take a look and record your observations.  Were you correct? 

Once it’s done, you can hang your snowflake up as a decoration on your tree, or put it in a window and see how it will catch the light!  



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