During this time of social distancing, it can be fun and educational to do science experiments and projects at home with your kids to help pass the time. One fun science project is to make rock candy in a glass or jar. The only items you need are sugar, water, a clothespin, some bamboo skewers (or other sticks), a few tall glasses or jars, and a pot to boil the water in. You can also use food colorings and flavorings if you want to make fancier rock candy.
Here are 5 steps for making rock candy in a glass:
- Melt the sugar—Boil 2 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar per glass in a large pot. For example, for 3 sticks of candy, you’ll need 3 glasses, 6 cups of water, and 12 cups of sugar. To make your supersaturated sugar syrup solution, stir in the sugar while the water is heating until it is completely dissolved. You can also add any flavorings (such as mint or vanilla) at this time. Let the solution cool for half an hour while you prepare the sticks in the next step.
- Prepare your sticks (you’ll need one stick per glass)—While your supersaturated sugar syrup solution is cooling, you can get your sticks ready by wetting them in water and rolling them in granulated sugar. Then the sticks need to dry completely (for about half an hour) before moving on to the next step. Alternatively, you can suspend cotton twine by tying it around a pencil, then lay the pencil across the glass top, so that the twine is suspended into the glass.
- Add food coloring (or not!)—If you want colored rock candy, now’s the time to add a few drops of food coloring. Leave out if you prefer clearer crystals.
- Pour into glasses and suspend the sticks—Pour the cooled liquid into your glasses, so they are nearly full. Lower a sugar-coated stick into the solution and clamp a clothespin to the end to hold the stick suspended without touching the bottom or sides. Cover each glass with a paper towel and place it on the jars on a quiet shelf.
You can then watch your rock candy sugar crystals grow as they slowly develop for about two weeks. Remove from the liquid, let them dry on wax paper, and enjoy! For the scientific lesson of this project, see: https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/rock-pop.html
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