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Ice Art With Epsom Salt

 

Today's Snack: Since we're going to be working with Epsom Salt, let's have something salty: popcorn, or dill pickles dipped in ranch dressing! Be sure to have some sweet apple juice or chocolate milk to wash down that salty taste.

 

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Supplies:

 

Dark blue or black construction paper

 

Crayons

 

Epsom Salt - for one picture, use about C. Epsom salt with C. hot water

 

Brush

 

Old newspaper

 

Clothespins, string and duct tape

 

 

With a piece of dark construction paper, some crayons, and an old-fashioned home remedy that should be in most people's medicine cabinets, you can make a fun work of art that celebrates winter and displays a little chemistry in a wacky way.

 

Most pharmacies and discount stories should have a supply of Epsom Salt. A four-pound container should only cost a dollar or two.

 

This 5-year-old chose to draw herself walking her dog in the snow,

with Epsom Salt on the paper creating the snow effect.

 

Epsom Salt is really magnesium sulfate, a saline laxative that you can take as an over-the-counter medicine. It's a natural salt that helps you . . . well, let's be polite and say "eliminate waste." When you mix a few teaspoons in a cup of water, maybe with a little lemon juice for "punch," it should help gently relieve mild constipation.

 

Epsom Salt is good for the body, both through digestion and as a bath soak. Magnesium, the second-most abundant element in human cells, is a key mineral. Because of mineral depletion in our farm soils, though, often the foods we eat don't contain enough magnesium any more.

 

It's a sulfate because each Epsom Salt crystal contains sulfur, rather than carbon. Chemically, it "wants" to re-group with carbon when given a chance. That's why it helps your body remove wastes: it joins back up with carbon, which is the main element in our food. Then both carbon and sulfur leave the body through the digestive tract.

 

This remarkable product also lowers blood pressure and prevents blood clots, among other things.

 

But best of all, the tiny crystals can help make an interesting art project. You can make it look like there's an ice storm on your picture!

 

Simply color a picture on black or dark blue construction paper, using crayons. You might like a winter scene rather than a summer scene. You'll find out why! It's OK to use white crayon to show a snowman, snow already on the ground, or whatever else you think you'd see in a winter picture.

Then mix equal parts Epsom Salt and hot water. For just one picture, mix one-fourth cup of each, in a shallow container. Stir.

 

Now put your crayon picture on some newspaper to catch spills. Use a broad brush, and brush the saltwater mixture on top of your picture until it's thoroughly soaked. If there is salt at the bottom of the container that didn't dissolve into the water, scoop it up and "glop" it onto the picture and spread it around.

 

If you have a place where you can hang it to dry, perhaps with clothespins on a string over a drain, put up with duct tape, that'll help make the "ice" appear more quickly. Otherwise, just leave it on the newspaper to dry.

 

Check your picture every so often, and watch the "ice" come out on top of the places where you didn't put any waxy crayon. The salt won't stick to the wax, but when the water dries up, the crystals remain on the paper.

 

After a few hours or so, the crystals start displaying what looks like the cracks and branches of ice and snow over your picture, especially if you hold it outside in the sun. It's the crystalline structure of the Epsom Salts that does it, just like the crystalline structure of snow makes sparkles in the sun.

 

You've made a winter wonderland on paper - thanks to chemistry, and a humble but important household friend.

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.AfterSchoolTreats.com Art 04 2008

 

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