#4 Crystal Magician

20 Points

This one is literally all about making your very own rock star – set up a crystal laboratory and make gloriously glittery crystals.

Read the instructions

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What to do

Your mission is:

Make your own crystals out of borax. Check out the notes (above) for the tools you need and make some magic.

1. WATCH THIS!

You don’t need to be a magician to make crystals, all you need is a bit of science and stuff around your kitchen. Check out the ‘how to’ video of the craft behind the crystals, or you can read on below if you want to get your crystals cracking right NOW!

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2. GET BENDY

Arm yourself with the pipe cleaners and bend and twist them into the shape you want your crystal to become.

This is going to be the ‘skeleton’ of your crystal. Be creative – you can make a star, a snow flake, a crystal skull, a horse – anything you like!

The only limit is your imagination (and possibly how big a bucket you can find, the length of pipe-cleaner and how much borax you can get your hands on!).

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3. STRING IT OUT!

Once you’ve hit on a shape you’re into, tie a 1 metre long piece of string around the top and put aside – we’ll be back to this bit soon!

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4. WARM UP

Using the measuring cup, pour very hot (but not boiling) water into the plastic bucket in 1-cup doses (count them!!) until it’s deep enough so that your pipe cleaner shape will be covered when it is lowered into the bucket. 

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5. BREW THE BORAX

Then for each cup of hot water you poured in your bucket, add 4 tablespoons of borax. So if it was 5 cups of water, you’d wanna add around 20 tablespoons of borax.

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6. YOU LITTLE STIRRER

Give it a good stir until most of the borax has dissolved (all good if some stays on the bottom). If you like you can stir in drops of food coloring until it is a colour you like (optional).

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7. DUNK IT

Dangle your pipe-cleaner ‘skeleton’ into the mixture by tying the string to the dowel or stick and using it as a bar across the top of the bucket. (You wanna make sure that the pipe-cleaner doesn’t touch the bottom or sides of the bucket.)

Now you get to leave it somewhere cool overnight, wash your hands and go to sleep!

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8. CRYSTAL CRAZINESS

The next morning, carefully pull your pipe-cleaner out of the borax solution. And boom!! – like a butterfly*, it has transformed into a beautiful crystal creation!! 

*Butterflies are not made of crystal.

**Unless you actually made a butterfly – then it will be. 

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UPLOAD THE MADNESS!

You can make all sorts of crazy crystals in your lab: bend your pipe-cleaners in the shape of Skylander Choppers or Minecraft’s prismarine or enders, or sunglasses and peace signs…  

Or your very own crystal moustache! You decide what has the X-Factor, then upload the result and get to the next Wild Eyes' level!

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GO CRYSTAL HORSE!

Have you ever seen a crystal horse? Well be like Harry Potter and conjure one ...  

OR for an awesome double-up, how about making some stalactites and stalagmites for your Wild Eyes cave?

What's happening?

BUCKET OF BORAX

Water is made up of tiny particles called water molecules. When water is heated, the water molecules move farther apart, making room for more of the borax to dissolve into borax molecules.

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STICKING TOGETHER

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As the borax-water solution cools, some of the water molecules evaporate out of the solution and the remaining water molecules move closer together again. That means there's less room in the solution to hold the borax molecules and they are more likely to collide with each other. 

LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE

Borax molecules are attracted to each other so once in a while you get two borax molecules that hang on just long enough to attract another borax molecule and then another and another... until a crystal borax structure starts to form. The more borax in the solution, the faster your crystal will come together! Not bad for some borax in a bucket.

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KITCHEN BENCH CRYSTALS

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– Find the crystals hiding in your kitchen bench

Crystals are found in many types of rocks. Igneous rocks form when molten volcanic magma cools very slowly underground or at the surface as lava, allowing crystals to form. 

A great example of igneous rock is granite which is sometimes used on things like kitchen benches! If you look closely at granite you can see flecks of white, black, grey and sometimes pink.

These flecks of color are the crystals in the igneous rock: you got that? Crystal clear?

 

Rock that floats

Have you ever picked up pumice off a beach or used it in the bath to rub off rough skin?

Pumice is actually an example of an igneous rock formed when lava cooled quickly above ground. You can see little pockets of air in the rock.

It's  so light, that many pumice rocks will actually float in water. 

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– Pumice: rock that floats!

MOON FACTOID

FUN FACT: The moon is made of igneous rock too!

CRYSTAL CONSTRUCTIONS

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Igneous stone wall at St Barnabas Church in Christchurch

Heaps of buildings around NZ are built from igneous rocks, especially around volcanic areas like Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.  

Check out this stone wall, outside St Barnabas Church in Fendalton. The inset shows gas bubbles ('vesicles') and white crystals of feldspar.

Inspiration

THINK BIG, THINK WILD BUT MAYBE NOT THIS WILD:

Check out the out of this world cave in mega crystals in this Mexican cave! Is it Superman's Fortress of Solitude?!

LIME TIME

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Limestone stalactites (c) Neil Silverwood

Did you know limestone caves are also made via the process of crystallization?

Limestone rock (calcium carbonate) in the ground is dissolved by rain water seeping through cracks in the earth. Over time, caves form as the limestone is slowly but continuously dissolved. 

When the rain water eventually evaporates, tiny crystals of limestone are left behind on the surface.  After a long time, re-crystallized limestone rock in caves forms stalactites and stalagmites = crystal cool!

Why why why Waitomo?

Limestone is mainly made of the shells of tiny marine fossils made of lime (calcium carbonate).

It can seem pretty weird to find limestone made from seashells in the ground miles away from the sea, but this provides scientists with really important clues to how Aotearoa's land used to be and how it changed over millions of years. NZ has limestone caves up and down the country, most famously Waitomo.

Limestone 'Cathedral' in Waitomo Cave

Limestone 'Cathedral' in Waitomo Caves

UNDERGROUND CRYSTAL LAKE

And we have some pretty spectacular crystal formations close to home, including the subterranean swag in the Nettlebed cave system in Kahurangi National Park.

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– Gaze into these crystals Harry Potter! c. Neil Silverwood

TRY ALUM INSTEAD

Alum also works instead of Borax (but it's harder to find in NZ). Watch and learn how to make your own Traptanium!  

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