Friday, December 13, 2013

The Twelve Days of Science! Day 2: Frosty The Snow Can!

On the 2nd Day of Christmas Science, my mommy made with me...
Frosty The Snow-Can!

Brrr! It's getting cold out there!
I wonder if even us desert dwellers can have a snowman?
CC Wikimedia Images

For our second day of science, I wanted to explore something that we desert dwellers don't get to see very often... frost! We came across this really great activity from Science Sparks, and we just had to try it. Of course, we also needed to learn a little bit about salt and how it interacts with liquid water, ice, and the freezing points of these materials! But first, the activity!


Materials Needed:

Clean tin can
2. Water
3. Crushed ice
4. Salt
5. Construction paper
6. Hot glue
7. Googly eyes
8. Scissors


Thoroughly clean out your can.

2. Decorate your snow can!

3. Fill the can halfway with crushed ice.

4. Add 1/4 cup of water (we used this for a full sized can, more or less may be needed depending on your can. You just want enough to add a liquid layer to the ice)

5. Let your child add a handful of salt! This worked out to approximately 2 Tbsp of salt.

6. Wait and watch as your tin can turns into a Snow-Can!

What's Happening?

Salt lowers the melting point of ice, which means that the ice will begin to melt, and the water will be really cold. In fact, the water in the can is sitting at a temperature that is BELOW freezing!

With the temperature of the can remaining at below freezing, this allows the water vapor in the air to cool and condense on the side of the can! If you can find a source of humidity, you'll have even more moisture available for condensation. We took our can into the bathroom after our showers to allow a lot of water vapor to condense on the side.

Once the water vapor starts cooling, you'll see it fog, then solidify, and then you'll start to see ice crystals as they build on top of each other!

When we were finished with our snow-can, we wanted to take a closer look at our frost, to see if we could see the ice crystals that had formed while freezing....

We put a slide in the freezer for a couple of minutes and then used it to scrape some frost off the side of our can. We ran over to our microscope so we could catch a peek at the crystals before they melted. What we found was both fascinating and beautiful!

Here we get to see the solid crystal structures of the ice as they had formed on the frost! While these structures were beautiful, we also got to see them expand and melt as they returned to their liquid state! We were able to observe matter changing states right before our very eyes!

This was a fantastic holiday science activity for us to do. Kat made the most adorable little Frosty The Snow-Can I'd ever seen and it only took about a half hour to go from liquid to solid and, through the microscope, back to liquid again!

While we may not be able to build a real snowman any time soon, the fact that we can create one in our kitchen whenever we want can brighten even the coldest of days!



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