Ice Crystal Experiment

The temperatures in Tennessee this past month have been frigid! It’s a perfect time for learning about ice. At Learning Zone preschools in Murfreesboro TN, we will be focusing on winter weather in our Learning Expeditions during January and February. You can have some fun with winter weather science at home too.

Let’s Talk about Ice

Ice isn’t just “frozen water,” you know. Ice is made up of crystals. Regular ice has a structure of repeating hexagonal-shape crystals as shown here.

Here’s an experiment you can do with ice. You’ll need:

  • distilled water
  • tap water
  • 2 plastic ice cube trays or 2 small plastic containers
  • freezer

First explain to your child that tap water has “things in it” that you can’t see (impurities), but distilled water does not. Then fill both containers to the top and put them in the freezer. The water will freeze fairly quickly, so check on the containers every half hour or so. The result should be that the distilled water will freeze with spikes in it. Once the spikes get started, continue to leave the containers in the freezer so the spikes will get bigger.

Here’s the Science

The impurities in the tap water make it freeze at a normal 32 degrees F so the ice crystals build up evenly in layers. It takes longer for the distilled water to start to freeze, but once it does freeze, it freezes rapidly. The ice crystals are not formed evenly.  In the distilled water, the ice crystals can form around a scratch or bump in the ice tray forming a cone like a volcano with water in the middle. As the ice crystals build up on the inside of the cone, they begin to force a few of the ice crystals (which are less dense than the liquid water) to float to the top. The ice crystals pop out of the hole, forming a spike. The spike continues to grow until the entire inside of the code is frozen.

Note: You don’t see spikes in nature because water in nature has impurities in it. So, like tap water, it freezes evenly.

Learn More About Learning Zone

Learning Zone Child Care is one of the leading preschools and daycares in Murfreesboro, TN. We currently have 2 brand new preschool locations in the Murfreesboro area. Please click on either location listed below to learn more or click here to schedule a tour and request information.