Antarctica: Introduction

This week we are headed south to Antarctica. Now I know Antarctica is not a country, since there is no governing party or indigenous people. However, it is a continent and there is plenty to learn, so learn about Antarctica we shall!

Since it is not an official country but rather a large land mass dedicated to research and inhabited for a few months at a time by different scientific groups from around the world, there is not one official flag. The flag I ultimately decided to go with is the same flag emoji that is found in smart phones for Antarctica. This one:

It was designed by Graham Bartram and modeled after the UN flag. It features a white continent on blue to represent neutrality. This is one design of many to be proposed but no official flag has been chosen. To make our own we cut out a general shape of Antarctica.

We taped it on the paint paper and Martin painted the whole thing blue. Once it was dry we removed the white paper and tape and we had our Antarctic flag!

A Science Experiment

Since Antarctica is home to scientists and scientific study and exploration, it was only fitting to do a science experiment. So, we made our own crystallized snowflakes!

For this science experiment you will need:

  1. Glass jars (one for each snowflake)
  2. Pipe cleaners
  3. Yarn
  4. Salt (table salt, a cheap as you can find it)
  5. Pot of boiling water
  6. A window to place your jars in front of
  7. Optional* Funnel

Fill each jar to the top with water and pour the water into a medium size sauce pan. Bring the water to boil.

Once the water is boiling add the salt, add 1/2 a cup per jar and stir to dissolve. Once the salt is dissolved let the water boil, within a few minutes you should see salt crystals forming on top of the water. If you do not add another 1/2 cup, dissolve and watch. Once the crystals have formed on the water, turn off the heat and set aside to cool a bit. *It is important to note that I was not patient and did not fully dissolve the salt. So you will see we had a lot of standing salt in our jars… if you do it right, it won’t look like that.

While the water cools, it’s time to make your snowflakes and icicles! Cut and twist your pipe cleaners into snowflakes or twist them around a pencil for icicles. Tie a piece of string to the tops of each one, this will be used to suspend it in the jar. *Make sure that they are small enough to fit inside your jars. **We chose white pipe cleaners but I would recommend colored ones- you will be able to see the finished crystals better on a colored pipe cleaner.

Once your water has cooled to warm, ladle the salty water equally into the jars. Place one pipe cleaner creation into each jar, secure the string with tape. Place them in a window.

In 3 days salt crystals will form all over the pipe cleaners. On day 3 remove the pipe cleaners from the water and allow to dry. While it dries encourage your scientist to examine the crystals, it sparkles and looks like its covered in ice.

Why does this work? Evaporation! Since the water has such a high level of salinity, when the water evaporates in the sunlight, the salt clings to what it can. As more water evaporates, more salt clings to the pipe cleaners and large crystals are formed. Evaporation! and that’s science πŸ™‚

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