Box Resources



Holiday Hodgepodge

DIY Miscroscope


Holiday Hodgepodge

Everyone loves the holidays, but did you know how much science is all around us during this festive time?! This month StemBox focuses on three scientific principles you can find all around you during the holidays. First, girls will explore fake snow and how it's made using a molecule called sodium polyacrylate that can expand to three-hundred times its original volume. Then girls move on to crystallization where they can create festive holiday snowflakes for decoration using borax crystals. For the grand finale steminists will make their own pH paper using a chemical found in poinsettia, a common holiday decoration.

Experiment Instructional Videos

Research Fake Snow, Crystals, and pH On The Web!

  • Hollywood Snow

    Hollywood has been concocting fake snow recipes for a long time! From salt, to cotton, to the sodium polyacrylate used in our experiment, read about which of your favorite Hollywood classics used different recipes to get that wintry effect on set.
    The history of fake snow here!


    In our poinsettia pH paper experiment this month, we discuss how anthocyanin, a molecule found in the bracts of poinsettia is responsible for the range of colors attained by exposure to different pH's. This article provides further reading about how anthocyanin works and an experiment you can perform with red cabbage to investigate further!
    How does anthocyanin work?

    Is poinsettia really poisonous?

    We've all heard the myth that poinsettia is poisonous before, but where did this myth begin? And is it true? Read this Nature Blog post to learn more about research regarding the toxicity of poinsettia and whether or not you should be concerned (Spoiler! It's not toxic.)
    Myth busters!

  • Crystallization Time Lapse

    If you were hoping to watch your borax crystals materialize right before your eyes you may have been a bit disappointed when it took anywhere from 4 to 12 hours for them to reach their full potential. But not to fear! We've found you this time lapse video of crystals forming to satisfy you.
    Watch crystals in action!

    Organic Chemistry of Crystallization

    Interested in a deeper explanation of how crystallization works so you can make even better crystals at home? The University of Colorado Boulder has made this great guide to help teach you more! Complete with illustrations and videos, you can learn more about the process of crystallization.
    Brush up on some organic chemistry!

    Careers in Crystallization

    Sure crystals look cool, but you're probably wondering why scientists spend so much time studying them and how they could even use them to help cure diseases and solve world issues! Well luckily, there are all sorts of careers in science that focus on the chemistry of Crystals! Check it out!
    Find your future career here!

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Steminists in action!

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Troubleshooting the
Holiday Hodgepodge Box

No sweat! Make sure you save your crystal solution and return it to your pot, food coloring too if it has already been added. Bring to a boil and boil the solution until you can evaporate a larger portion of the water. If you have more borax on hand or have picked up some from the grocery store, go ahead and add more than you think you need. After bringing this to a boil, you might still have some undissolved borax but that's okay, retry the crystallization process.

You can complete this experiment with other crystal compounds around your home! Try using sugar or salt. You will want to follow the same procedure just adding a bit more of the solute. This crystallization process will be longer than the process for borax so set it aside for 48-72 hours. In some cases a week produces the best results. Good luck!

Fantastic question and a fantastic resource can be found here !

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