The United Nations declared 2014 the
International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014). The idea was
conceived by the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr)
and the aim of IYCr2014 was to stimulate awareness of the
importance of Crystallography, and the benefits that have been
derived from its study and application.
designed a set of activities and suitable resources that cover
several aspects of crystals and crystallography, to meet the
needs of IYCr2014.
Activities for IYCr2014
Our suite of four activities allows primary
and secondary school learners (and adults) the opportunity to
engage hands-on with crystals and their properties. This is
really the only way that learners are stimulated to learn more
about science – working with real substances, modelling,
observing, hypothesising, discussing, etc. The four activities
Activity 1: Growing Crystals
This is a two-part activity where
learners, guided by their teachers, first prepare a
saturated solution of copper sulfate. Initial
crystallisation produces rhombus-shaped seed crystals,
one of which is used to grow a single, perfect,
beautiful blue copper sulfate pentahydrate crystal (CuSO4.5H2O(s)).
Learners observe the crystal growth and nurture their
crystal. The activity also addresses concepts of
solubility, saturated solutions and temperature effects
Activity 2: Crystals Great and
This activity allows learners to
discover the difference between crystalline and
amorphous substances through close observation of
crystals great and small. Learners use a hand-held
microscope to observe the angles, faces and symmetry of
big quartz crystals which have been naturally grown for
millions of years, and then they use the same microscope
to examine everyday solids such as salt, sugar, washing
powder, sand, pepper, etc.
Activity 3: Modelling Crystals with Beads
Engineers did not invent crystal-growing - Nature has been
doing this forever! This activity gives learners the
opportunity to understand the symmetry of crystals they have
observed in Activities 1 and 2, by building crystal models
using small beads and prestik. For the
teacher, this links significantly with the Particle Model of
Matter and chemical bonding.
This pyramid shape is formed by a regular pattern of beads
Activity 4: Diffraction Patterns
In order for crystallographers to determine exactly how
atoms or molecules are arranged within a crystal, they pass
X-rays through a crystal and record the resulting pattern of
dots on an X-ray film. This pattern is due to the X-rays
being diffracted by the particles (atoms or molecules) in
the crystal. The brightness, position and symmetry of dots
in each pattern tell crystallographers about the arrangement
of the particles in the crystal being studied.
We can simulate
X-ray diffraction by producing diffraction patterns using
visible light. In this activity,
learners have access to red and green laser pointers that
they shine on different everyday materials. The spectacular
demonstrations give them some insight into X-ray diffraction
and the work of X-ray crystallographers.
pattern from a vertical wire
For all four activities described above, a school
or a Science Centre or a Science Club can acquire a Facilitator’s
Crystallography Kit (FCK) that contains microscale learner kits for
individual or group work, a specially prepared Crystallography
Chemicals Kit (CCK), a Facilitator’s Guide and an Activity Booklet.
The teacher/facilitator maintains the hand-held microscope
and green laser pointer, as well as certain other resources
that are also accommodated in the kit shown alongside. The
FCK is suitable for up to 60 learners working in groups, and
can be used several times with groups of this size provided
that the chemicals are well-managed until replenishment is
required. The microscale kits are low-cost, high safety and
have minimal environmental impact. No laboratory is needed!
Furthermore, they are easy and convenient to use making them
the ideal tools for teaching and learning about the
Wonderful World of Crystals.
For more information
on - and pricing of - the RADMASTE Crystallography Kits, please
to download a price list with the most up-to-date prices for all
RADMASTE products. There is also a PDF brochure on the same site
which describes the FCK and shows prices for the different
components that make up the facilitator's kit.