Activity Idea: Confectionography: The study of crystals using candy

Okay, so it’s not a real word.  But it gets the point across, right?  We can use candy, rock candy to be specific, to study how crystals form (crystallography). 

How to Start: A little background: a crystal is a solid made from molecules that form a repeating pattern.  What’s really cool is that as the crystals grow, they form in the shape of that molecular pattern (aka crystal system)!

Our recipe:

  • Boil 2 cups water.
  • Add 4 cups sugar (we used white sugar) over medium-high heat.
  • Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and you get a rolling boil.
  • Pour into containers (mason jars work great).
  • Add food coloring and flavored syrup, if you want.
  • Dip a chop stick in the solution, remove and let fully dry.  It will take a day or two.
  • Once dry, put the chopstick back into the solution.  Use a clothespin to hold the stick in place and about an inch off the bottom of the container.
  • Watch your crystals grow!

What to do next: Discuss with your kiddos how they think the crystals grew.  Form a hypothesis and then do some research.  Hint, key word are: supersaturated, precipitate and evaporation.

What we found: I tried to take a short cut.  It failed.  I learned.  I read that you could wet the stick and roll it in sugar, so you wouldn’t have to wait a day or two for the stick to dry.  That didn’t work for us.    

Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?

  • Science: Time to dig into some Geology (my fave!).  Research the different crystal patterns (or systems).  What are they?  How many are there?  Can you give an example of a mineral from each system?  What is the difference between a crystal and a mineral?
  • Technology: How are crystals used in technology?  Why are crystals used in technology?
  • Engineering: What is crystal engineering and why is it so important?
  • Arts: Can you draw a picture of your crystals?  What about pictures of the different types of crystal systems?
  • Math: What shapes do different crystals form?  What angles do they have?  What patterns?

STEAM Resources:


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