Have a chemical Christmas with these chemistry-themed holiday crafts

In our department, you can’t escape science – not even for the holidays.

Have a chemical Christmas at HMNSEvery year during the holiday season, the museum provides pine trees to local non-profits to decorate and spread their organization’s message. Our department is usually given a tree to decorate in a manner that expresses some aspect of the museum.

This year, we have dedicated our tree to chemistry, as we will have a revamped Chemistry Hall in the near future and want to celebrate. And because we know you like science as much as we do, we have compiled all sorts of fun kid- (and adult) friendly chemistry projects that you can do at home. Ours have all been made into ornaments for our tree, but the sky’s the limit!

Check out these links and have your own Chemical Christmas:

Marvelous Marbled Ornaments
Christmas Chromatography
Borax Crystal Ornaments
Amazing Snow Powder
How Does the Periodic Table of Elements Work?

Want to come check out the trees for yourself? Visit the museum from Nov. 30th through the first week of January. Can’t make it? Stay tuned for pictures of all the trees the first week of December!

But in the meantime, enjoy the trees from previous years and this chemist’s version of a holiday classic, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” John F. Hansen’s version appeared in the St. Louis section of the American Chemical Society in 1978.

‘Twas the night to make crystals, and all through the ‘hood,
Compounds were reacting as I’d hoped that they would.
The hood door I’d closed with the greatest of care,
To keep noxious vapors from fouling the air.

The reflux condenser was hooked to the tap,
And the high vacuum pump had a freshly filled trap.
I patiently waited to finish my task,
While boiling chips merrily danced in the flask.

Then from the pump there arose such a clatter,
That I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the fume hood! Up with the door!
And half of my product foamed out on the floor.

Then what to my watering eyes should appear,
But a viscous black oil which had once been so clear.
I turned the pump off in a terrible rush,
And the oil that sucked back filled the line up with mush.

The ether boiled out of the flask with a splash,
And hitting the mantle, went up with a flash!
My nose turned quite ruddy, my eyebrows went bare,
The blast had singed off nearly half of my hair.

I shut the hood door with a violent wrench,
As acid burned holes in the floor and the bench.
I flushed it with water, and to my dismay,
Found sodium hydride had spilled into the fray.

And then the fire got way out of hand,
I managed to quench it with buckets of sand.
With aqueous base I diluted the crud,
Then shoveled up seven big buckets of mud.

I extracted the slurry again and again
With ether and then with dichloromethane.
Chormatographic techniques were applied
Several times ’til the product was purified.

I finally viewed with a satisfied smile,
One half a gram in a shiny new vial.
I mailed the yield report to my boss,
Ninety percent (allowing for loss).

“Good work,” said the boss in the answering mail,
“Use same condition on a preparative scale.”

HOW TO: Marvelous Marbled Ornaments

 Materials needed

Materials:
Cheap shaving cream – we use Barbasol
Liquid watercolors (available at art supply stores)
Pencil
Cookie sheet
Shapes cut out of cardstock (heavy paper)
Ribbon
Popsicle stick (note cards will work too)





We decided to use three different colors

What to do:

1. Cut different shapes out of cardstock (we cut out a dinosaur!)

2. Dispense about an inch of shaving cream onto the cookie sheet about the approximate size of the shape you cut out.

3. Put drops of liquid watercolors directly on top of the shaving cream.  Two colors works well, but use three at the most.

4. Use a sharpened pencil to swirl the colors together very gently (use the sharpened tip of the pencil).  Do not push down into the shaving cream too far.  Swirl the paint on top until you have a nice marbled look.  Don’t swirl for too long or you will get brown!

5. Put your cutout on top of the shaving cream and press so it comes in complete contact with the color.

6. Peel the cutout off.  It will appear to be a mess of shaving cream and color until you do the next step.

7. Lay the cut out down and use the Popsicle stick to scrape the shaving cream off the paper.  You will be left with a marvelous marbled masterpiece. 8. Let it dry, punch a hole, tie a ribbon, and hang it on your tree!

 Swirl it all together!

 Scraping away

What’s going on here anyway?
Shaving cream has a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobictail.  What in the world does that mean?  Well, the water-based watercolors are attracted to the water-loving (hydrophilic) head (top of the shaving cream pile) and repelled by the hydrophobic (water-hating) tail (bottom of the shaving cream pile).  This limits the motion of the watercolors and suspends them on the top of the shaving cream.  When you then place your paper on the shaving cream the absorbent paper captures the watercolor image that is suspended on the top of the shaving cream.

 The final product!