We studied the element Boron and mixed up some slime as part of our Elementary Chemistry class. This was a perfect moment to talk about states of matter, elements that behave strangely, and the importance of following directions when doing chemistry. First I’ll share some great resources for learning about Boron and then what we learned in our lab. I also have a free download for you. Let’s get to it!
In many ways, Boron isn’t too different from Carbon, an element we had already studied. It can be incredibly strong and is used in manufacturing and in regulating nuclear reactors. We need it to make eye drops, heat-resistant glass, cleaners, scratch-resistant LCD screens, and armor. Oh and it’s also a key component for plant’s cell growth, a pretty recent discovery.
Boron is a key element in naturally-occurring Borax, which has been used and traded for centuries. In fact, the name is derived from the Arabic word buraq, meaning white. You can find a good list of boron uses on this corporate website for 20 Mule Team. Boron would be a good element to study throughout history and across the world–from the ceramics of ancient China to the high-tech uses of the borax mined today in Boron, CA.
Just click the image below to download your own copies of my handout.
The first page is about the three basic states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Students are directed to sketch what each one would look like in a cylinder. Liquids take the shape of the container while solids maintain their shape. Gasses of course wouldn’t stay put in a cylinder without a lid. The sheet also had a place to jot down a description of each state of matter and give a few examples.
The second sheet is your slime recipe. There are a few questions to answer along the way, too.
Chemistry Lab : Making Slime With Borax
We followed a basic recipe using water, liquid glue, Borax and food coloring to create slime in our lab.
Making slime was a bit trendy last year and there are recipes all over the internet. I did some research and experimenting of my own before presenting this to the class. I’ll tell you what I learned and how things went for the kids. The recipe we used is in the free download above.
First off, there are a few safety considerations for working with Borax. Don’t be fooled by recipes that claim they don’t contain boron. (Or worse, the ones that say “chemical-free”) Recipes that use liquid starch or eye solution DO use boron because boron is found in both of those products. They may be easier to use because you don’t have to do that first step of creating a suspension–that’s been done already. But there’s nothing innately safer about not using borax, though you do need to follow some common sense precautions.
In a classroom setting, it’s always better to err on the side of safety since you don’t know for sure which kids may be sensitive. Be careful when pouring out the borax powder because it can be irritating if inhaled. I put a few scoops of borax into small cups before the kids arrived. They just needed to measure out a teaspoon from there to mix with water. That way, the kids really didn’t even need to touch the borax in it’s solid, undiluted form.
I found that using warm water to create the borax suspension worked well. I asked the kids to make the suspension in a bottle with a cap. They put in the water and borax, placed the lid on tight, and shook it up.
After diluting the liquid glue with water and adding a few drops of food coloring, we slowly mix in that borax suspension. I noticed problems when students didn’t use a clean container for the glue part or if they added the borax directly to the glue. This is a great chance to talk about how sometimes (like in chemistry or baking) you really do need to follow the steps exactly. The chemical reaction starts occurring once the boron hits the glue, so be careful and learn from mistakes! (A great experiment to follow up on this would be trying to change your slime’s consistency.)
We had a great time playing around with slime. It was amazing for the moms and toddlers too. There’s a lot of good discussion you can have about how slime behaves. Here are a few shots of our test batch at home.
Have you studied Boron? Made slime? Share your experience and favorite resources below! Ask away if you have any questions too.