“ Brand: John Adams / Age: 8 Years+ / Type: Science „
I bought this in the October half term as a little something to keep my daughter occupied while it tipped down with rain outside. She is very keen on rocks and fossils and we spend a lot of time collecting them. My first disappointment was when I realised it wasn't quite what I thought I had bought. I bought it on the spur of the moment in The Range for about £5 thinking it was a crystal growing set (which it is) like I remember doing as a child ie growing pretty crystal trees in a small tank. Nevertheless she was keen to get experimenting so this is what we did.
On opening up the box there is a wonderful collection of items including:
A crystal base station ie a grey shaped plastic tray
2 wooden sticks with cut out v-shaped grooves
A sign post (what's the point in that, asked my daughter)
Spider shape made of some sort of cardy-polystyrene
Aluminium Potassium Phosphate in a small plastic bottle
2 Limestone rock crystals, approx 2" across
Red food colouring in a small plastic bottle
Magnifying glass (hmm)
2 plastic water tubes
Fact cards and instructions
The instructions were easy to follow and had lots of illustrations but, I think, adult supervision is needed.
You need a clean jam jar, not provided, filled with about 70ml of warm water. Into this the aluminium potassium sulphate needs to be slowly added and stirred until completely dissolved. The two limestone rocks are placed in the larger of the two 'pools' in the tray and the mixture poured over (keep what's left over for the next experiment). Add the red food colouring and stir with a spoon. Leave for a few days and observe. The diagram on instruction leaflet suggests huge crystals will form on the rocks. They don't. The limestones absorbed some of the mixture turning the rocks red and a couple of small white rectangular blobs did appear at the base of the rocks. If you use a better quality magnifying glass than the one supplied then it is possible to see the crystalline structure. They were rectangular and definitely not the huge star-like structures in the diagram.
Making a crystal covered spider! Take the spider shape and bend its legs so that it will fit standing up in the smaller 'pool'. Fill the pool with the leftover solution. This is absorbed by the spider shape and again you need to leave it somewhere it will not be disturbed for a few days. As the liquid evaporates you are left with a crystalline spider. This I would say was slightly more successful than the previous experiment as the spider did become crystalline although not sparkly as my daughter was hoping.
Grow stalagmites and stalactites. First you need to prepare the solution of 4 teaspoons of table salt in a half cup of warm water. Push the two wooden sticks into the base and place the water tube containers into the circular recess either side of the sticks. Soak the string in water and locate it across the grooves in the sticks with equal lengths hanging either side into the water tube container. Carefully pull the rope that is suspended between the sticks downwards so that a v shape forms. Fill the containers with the salt solution and leave for a few days. The salt solution is drawn up the thread and will drip down the v-shaped string onto the base. According to the instructions this is where the stalagmite and stalactite will form. It doesn't. Well at least ours didn't. We had a salt encrusted rope and a pool of salty water under the rope that evaporated back into a pile of salt. Hmm
Open an ancient Geode. This was rather nice but unfortunately my daughter has collected many of these for herself and was somewhat unimpressed by the one supplied - it was slightly smaller than a golf ball. Briefly geodes were formed several millions of years ago when air bubbles were trapped in volcanic lave. They look like a round stone but when you break them open the centre is partially hollow and there are lots sparkly crystals. The instructions come with plenty of sensible warnings that safety glasses should be worn and the geode should first be placed in an old sock before being hit with a hammer to split it open. This is probably not something a small child should be doing without close supervision. The geode supplied had pale grey coloured crystals inside. Personally, even though I have done this many times before, I think this was the best bit of the kit. The excitement I feel of being the first person to see something that is several millions of years old never lessens, maybe I'm just a big kid.
The instructions also come with the usual plethora of health and safety warnings of not eating the contents, food colouring may stain clothing and suchlike which is all common sense but I recommend the experiments are all done with adult supervision to prevent any mishaps.
My daughter certainly enjoyed using this kit even though the results were a little disappointing and it did while away a few hours of the half term holiday. The box says it is suitable for children aged 10+. My daughter is ten and it was not too fiddly for her to use and the supplied fact sheets were about the right amount of information regarding crystal structures, what geodes are and how stalagmites and stalactites form in nature. This all fits in with the science syllabus of the national curriculum for key stage 2 (7-11 year olds). At this stage children will investigate the different types of rocks; chalk is soft, flint is hard, limestone is permeable, marble is impermeable etc. They will be learning about soluble and insoluble materials and mixing solids with water to investigate which changes are reversible through evaporation or condensation. In my opinion one of the best ways for young children to learn is through play and this certainly fits the bill.
This kit is manufactured by John Adams who produce a huge range of art and craft activities for children which can be seen at www.johnadams.co.uk. John Adams toys are available at all the usual toy retailers and online.
All in all I think this is a fun and educational kit.
©perfectly-p 2008 (aka perfectlypolished)
Crack open 2 pre-historic volcanic Geodes to reveal their crystalline inner formations. Watch how a foam shape can magically metamorphoses into a crystal spider!