Chadron State College
Chadron State College


Crystals - Borax

One of the coolest things you can do in chemistry is create crystals. These borax crystals make great Christmas tree ornaments and really easy to do. We made several with our students and they turned out every time.

Borax Crystals

Borax Crystals (from


  • Pipe Cleaners
  • String
  • Wide-mouth jar (or beaker)
  • Borax
  • Pencil
  • Boiling Water
  • Food Coloring (optional)
  • Scissors
Borax Snowman


  1. Create any shape you want out of your pipe cleaner. The only stipulation is that it has to be able to fit into the jar or beaker without having to squeeze it.
  2. Cut a length of string and tie it to your pipe cleaner shape. Tie the other end to the pencil. Your shape should be hanging in the jar, but not touching the bottom. Set this apparatus aside.
  3. Bring a pot of water to boil and pour it into the jar. Add 3 Tbs of borax for each cup of water in the jar. Stir.
  4. If you want colored crystals, add the food coloring now.
  5. Hang your shape in the jar, resting the pencil on the top of the jar. Make sure your shape is totally submerged.
  6. Put the jar somewhere where it won’t be disturbed. Let it set for overnight.
Borax Crystals

Crystals - Rock Candy

What’s better than science? Edible science, of course. Though sometimes it doesn’t quite go as planned. Our group tried to make rock candy by melting an obscene amount of green and white star mints into hot water and then stirring for what seemed like hours on end to make sure the sugar had truly dissolved. We then attached a string to a pencil and submerged the string in the green liquid using the pencil to suspend the top of the string above the water, like you do in the instructions for the borax crystals. Days later, this merely produced a sugar crust on top of the liquid and very few crystals on the string. Sometimes science in more about failure than it is about being able to eat your results. In learning from our mistakes, here is a tried and true recipe for rock candy, courtesy of


  • A wooden skewer or wooden chopstick
  • Clothespin
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 2-3 Cups of Sugar
  • A tall narrow glass or jar


  1. Clip the wooden skewer with the clothespin so that the clothespin can rest on the edges of the jar and the skewer rests an inch from the bottom of the jar. Then put this aside.
  2. Bring the water to a boil before adding 1/4 C. of sugar and stirring until it dissolves. Do this repeatedly, until all the sugar is gone, and making sure the sugar is dissolved each time before adding more sugar. Allow mixture to cool for at least 20 minutes, stopping the heating process when no more sugar will dissolve.
  3. Pour the sugar solution into your jar almost to the top. Submerge your skewer so that it hangs straight down. Allow the jar to fully cool and put it somewhere where it will not be disturbed and wait 3-7 days for crystals to grow. (If you want colored rock candy, add the food coloring to your sugar water and make sure it is very dark for best results.)

Chemical Reactions - Fill the Balloon

One way to see all the different products of a chemical reaction is to try and fill a balloon with the gases released. We did this by using zinc and hydrochloric acid and the old stand-by, baking powder and vinegar. We put the dry substance in the balloon and the liquid chemical into the flask. When we place the opening of the balloon over the opening of the flask, we could then drop the dry substance in and not lose any gas during the reaction. There are lots of possibilities with this activity because you can change the ratios to try and find the one that fills the balloon the most and which combinations produce the most gas the fastest. This can also be done with yeast and warm water, though I would suggest putting the yeast and water together before topping the flask with the balloon so it can be stirred properly.

Gas Build Up

Chemical Reactions - Cabbage Titrations

Cabbage water is a great way to determine whether something is a base or an acid and is fun for students to experiment with because the water will change colors and it is safe, if a little smelly. To make your cabbage water, you’ll want to take a red cabbage and cut it into slices and then boil it for about half an hour. You’ll want it to be a blue-violet color. When you add basic substances, the cabbage juice will become green or even yellow. When you add an acidic substance, the color will become red. If you have a small enough amount of cabbage water for each student, they can blow into it to see if they can get their titration water to turn color so they’ll be able to see if their breath is acidic or basic.


Chemical Properties - Joey's Egg Trick

Some of you may remember Joey’s egg trick from the show Full House. We did it as an introduction to our chemistry unit to hook our students and they liked it so much that they did it for the middle school students and the elementary school students during our applied sessions.


  • Hard Boiled Egg - No Shell
  • Large Flask
  • Match or other Flammable Substance


  1. Drop the match or flaming substance into the flask
  2. Place the egg over the flask's opening
  3. Watch the egg get sucked down into it when before it wouldn't have fit the opening
  4. The reason the egg is able to be sucked into the flask is because the air within the bottle is heated up, so the molecules are bouncing around and the air is taking up less space because it is less dense. This sucks the egg into the flask, because the system is trying to equalize. To remove the egg, simply add more air to the flask. (Most people do this by blowing into the flask while holding it with a downwards tilt.)