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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Creating Colorful Ice Jewels

National Jewel Day is a day that recognizes precious gemstones and how we use them for functional and decorative purposes, like the jewels that help a wristwatch move or the brilliant stones that adorn our jewelry.

Celebrate the sparkle this holiday brings by making your own colorful jewels out of ice! Once you create your cool gems, try out an ice melting experiment to learn how matter can move between liquid and solid states.


Materials Needed

  • Bowls (3)
  • Cardstock or poster board (optional)
  • Digital stopwatch (or other timing device)
  • Food coloring
  • Ice cube trays (or other plastic containers)
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Salt
  • Spoon
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Water balloons (optional)


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Find an ice cube tray or other small plastic container to make ice cubes, which will serve as your jewels.
  2. Prepare your ice jewels by putting water in your ice cube tray.
  3. Choose the color(s) you would like your jewels to be, then place a couple drops of food coloring in the water of each section of the ice cube tray.
  4. Place your ice cube tray in the freezer and wait until the water is completely frozen.
  5. Take the ice cube tray out of your freezer, and you now have ice jewels!
  6. Add about four ice jewels in any color to each of the three bowls. Make sure you have the same number of jewels in each bowl.
  7. Add a spoonful of salt to one bowl, a spoonful of sugar to the second bowl and add nothing to the third bowl.

    The last bowl will be your control in the experiment. A control is the sample that remains unchanged from other variables. In this experiment, the variables are the salt and the sugar that you added to the other bowls of ice jewels.
  8. Start a stopwatch after you have added the salt and the sugar to the bowls.
  9. Make a prediction, or a guess, about which bowl of ice jewels you think will melt first. Record your predication on a piece of paper.
  10. Check on your ice jewels every 10 minutes and record your observations on the paper.
  11. Try doing this activity again choosing different substances to add to the bowls of ice jewels!

Now that you know how to make ice jewels, try these other cool activities!

  • If it is snowy in your area, hide your frozen jewels in the snow and have a friend dig for them.
  • If it is not snowy in your area, take your ice jewels outside and see how long it takes for them to melt on the sidewalk.
  • Use your ice jewels to “paint” on paper. Consider using a thick paper like poster board or cardstock if you have it available. Make sure to blot the excess water off the paper when you are done, then hang your creation up to dry.
  • If you have water balloons available, add water to the balloons and freeze them. Try making the balloons different sizes to see which size melts fastest when you take them out of the freezer.


What Are We Discovering?

There are many states of matter, like solid, liquid and gas. The water you placed in the ice cube tray was a liquid. After placing the tray in the freezer, the molecules in the water got so cold, they slowed down and stuck to each other, forming a solid ice cube. You changed the water from a liquid state to a solid state. Salt and sugar lower the freezing point of water/ice, and when you melted the ice cubes, they changed from a solid state to a liquid state.

Have you ever been to an ice skating rink? National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee Frank J. Zamboni and his brothers were partners in a business that made and sold block ice, but this industry declined due to mobile refrigeration, so the Zamboni brothers used their knowledge of ice to build an indoor skating rink. The rink was successful, but it was difficult to keep the ice smooth. It took a crew of five people an hour and a half to clean and resurface it. To dramatically improve this process, Zamboni invented and patented an ice rink resurfacing machine, making the ice smooth in just 15 minutes and creating an efficient way for skaters to enjoy sleek ice!


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For more fun, hands-on STEM activities for your family, check out our blog!

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