Sophia Hellman and Abby Fakhoury
During the month of March, sophomores have been the first on campus, arriving at the crack of dawn to work on the infamous Blue Crystal Lab. This activity is the flagship of Honors Chemistry and allows students to employ the skills they’ve gained from past labs in their attempts to grow a crystal. Throughout this journey, students become quite attached to their crystals, naming them and tending to them every morning until their big debut on Blue Day.
For those who don’t know, there are many different types of crystals, each differing in their composition and shape. The sophomores created solutions of hydrated copper (II) sulfate and distilled water to grow their crystals, but there are many other possible combinations and components. As far as shape, a crystal can either be a polycrystal (the spiky ones) or a monocrystal (the flat, prism-like ones). Polycrystals take less time to grow large, whereas monocrystals must grow slowly in order to maintain their flat surfaces.
We spoke to two students, Drew Walters and Spencer Anderson, who grew a polycrystal and a monocrystal, respectively. When forming her polycrystal, apart from arriving early, one of Drew’s most successful methods was that she “moved it into bigger buckets before it was ready” which really shows if you look at her massive dodgeball-sized crystal named “Beth.”
As for Spencer, who grew a crystal which started out as a monocrystal, but later developed more spikes and turned into a hybrid of the two types, his routine was a bit different. When asked how he was able to grow his crystal “OWO” in as little as three days, he explained that the trick was to supersaturate the solution “to the point where whenever you lifted the glass stirring rod, and let it air dry, it forms crystals.” He also advised that “you don’t really have to let it cool unless you’re trying to go for a big monocrystal.”
The blue crystal lab had been implemented before Ms. Zesiger’s time, but only as an ordinary lab. Upon seeing students’ enthusiasm and desire to grow their crystals, Ms. Z decided to take the lab a step further. “Students were coming to me and asking for more time because they wanted a chance to really grow their crystals” Zesiger recalls, and explained that students hadn’t been able to grow their crystals much larger than the original seed. Since then, the blue crystal lab has made for an exciting and lively time in Records 2, and Ms. Z’s favorite part is the friendly competition among students. It’s every teacher’s wish that their students will strive to achieve their goals driven by passion and excitement instead of a grade, and the blue crystal lab provides them with a chance to do just that.
In order to showcase the students’ hard work, each year, Ms. Zesiger throws a Blue Day celebration where anyone can walk in, eat some blue food, and enjoy the crystals. The sophomores in Honors Chemistry also help with its organization by setting up the decorations and bringing food. This year the celebration was very successful, and her classroom was filled to the brim with students from every grade, all hoping for some treats and glimpses of the unique crystals. Blue Day is one of the few events that bring the entire Upper Division together while allowing everyone to recognize the accomplishments of their peers, making for a true celebration!