My kids and I are making rock candy. I know what you’re thinking – “Big deal – every kid does that in kindergarten.” What is the difference? We are making rock candy again. And again. And again. Yes, making rock candy is fun. Yes, it is a great way to begin a conversation about crystals and chemistry. But, it is also a great way to get your kids thinking about the scientific method, why we perform experiments, and the process of analyzing your results to come up with a new hypothesis. Basically, getting your kids to think like scientists.
What if we use a popsicle stick? What if we use a lollipop stick? What if we add the sugar, then boil the water? What if we use a small fat jar or a large skinny jar? What if we add red food coloring?
The beauty of rock candy is that it’s a short and sweet experiment that takes a long time (about a week) to produce results. This gives my kids time to really think about it and come up with ideas for what to do next time. It gives them time to observe, question, create, and really care about the process. This is something that is often missed in the school environment. An experiment is performed once, to demonstrate some process for the students. The students may take the information in, but are not given the opportunity to revisit the experiment in order to add personal meaning to it.
My kids scour the Internet for different rock candy making tips. They have gotten some great advice from many different websites and Youtube videos. They have used their research to form new theories on the “best” way to make rock candy and then they have tested their new hypotheses with each new experiment. While the result is tasty, the process is what really matters!