Rock candy isn’t necessarily something parents would encourage for their children, but rock candy does make for a pretty sweet chemistry lesson.
The Upper Elementary students have been working with Miss Fatima for chemistry this year. Miss Fatima is a parent volunteer at MTS, and she works in the biology department at the University of North Florida and at Mayo Clinic as a researcher.
The students and Miss Jess look forward to their chemistry lessons, which usually are weekly. The rock candy lesson has been the sweetest so far for the students, even though it also has been a lesson in how things don’t always work out.
The first batch of rock candy didn’t go as planned. Some batches of the sugary mix became moldy, and others failed to grow any candy. The students were eager to discuss what may have caused the problems. This led to discussions about evaporation, volume and surface area.
The rock candy’s failure to grow, however, didn’t sour the group on the lesson. Miss Fatima made a new batch of sugar water, using more sugar and no food coloring. This batch has been thriving, and the students have enjoyed watching the crystals grow.
Following the second rock candy experiment, Miss Fatima continued her lesson with a water filtration system experiment. She started by showing them activated charcoal, sand, gravel and coffee filters. The students then wrote hypotheses about what they thought would happen when dirty water was filtered through each item.
The students tested each of the items individually to see what would happen and to record their results.
After seeing how each of the items filtered the dirty water, the students had all kinds of ideas about how to get the water cleaner. Miss Fatima let the students try out their ideas before bringing them back together to try filtering the dirty water through all of four of the substances.
The students enjoyed trying out their ideas and the hands-on nature of this experiment. In fact, they probably would have continued to try different filtering combinations for the rest of the school day, but they hadn’t had lunch yet.
In a later lesson, the students continued with the water theme by working on a lesson that involved moving water. They were each given one cup of water, one empty cup and a straw. Miss Fatima instructed them to move the water from one cup to the other without tipping the cup. Some students created drip systems to move the water, while other developed siphon systems. It was a fun and messy experiment.