Santa Claus in a Snowstorm

Awaiting the arrival of the big man? Shake up a homemade snow globe!

Chemistry has a million real world applications, but there is none more festive than creating a snow globe right in your own home! The Santa in a Snowstorm experiment uses a supersaturated solution to create a snow globe that you don’t have to buy from a gift shop.

NOTE: This experiment is intended to be conducted by an adult, or under DIRECT supervision of an adult.

Experiment Materials

  • 20g Benzoic Acid
  • 2 L beaker
  • 3 L jar
  • Plastic figurine (Santa or other)
  • Stirring Rod
  • Hot plate
  • Hot glue gun
  • Water
  • Safety equipment

Experiment

1

Slowly heat about 1.8 L (1.8 quarts) of tap water in 2 L beaker using a hot plate. Do not allow the water to boil.

2

As the water is heating, add 20 grams of benzoic acid. Continue to heat and stir the mixture until the benzoic acid completely dissolves. Again, do not boil the solution.

3

Remove the solution from the hot plate and allow the solution to cool.

4

While the solution cools, use a hot glue gun to glue the plastic figurine to the inside of your 3 L jar lid.

5

Once the solution has cooled completely, give it a quick stir and pour it into the 3 L jar. Fill the remaining space with additional tap water.

6

Cap the jar tightly with the figurine lid and turn the jar upside down. Look at that! It’s a homemade snow globe!

How Does It Work

The solution in the Santa Claus in a Snowstorm experiment is referred to as a saturated solution. That means there is as much solute (the benzoic acid) dissolved in the solvent (the water) as is possible. When you heat the solution, the solubility actually increases, allowing even more solute to dissolve than is normally possible. The cooling process forces the “extra” solute to precipitate, or separate itself from the solution again. The “snow” in your snow globe is actually benzoic acid that was once dissolved in the solution, but is now a precipitate.

Safety Information

Benzoic acid is moderately toxic by ingestion. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, clothing, and respiratory tract as it is a sever irritant. Please take all possible safety precautions, including chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant gloves, and a chemical resistant apron. Conduct this demonstration in a well-ventilated area under adult supervision.

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