Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

Handling crystals

Class practical

An opportunity to look more extensively at the nature of crystals. Students are often fascinated by crystals especially if they can handle large ones.

Apparatus and materials

Alum crystal, large

Calcite crystals

Sodium thiosulfate crystals

Caster sugar

Sugar crystals, type used for coffee

Hand lenses

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Hands should be washed after handling crystals.



Ask students to handle the large crystals for themselves and closely examine the smaller ones.

Teaching notes

Students should learn that crystals are identified by flat faces with angles between them. The angles are characteristic of that material, regardless of their size. They could be encouraged to look for crystals at home. 

You may need to take precautions to avoid theft and breakage of the large crystals. 
This experiment was safety-checked in May 2004


Related guidance

Crystals and atomic models for beginners


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