Fantastic Plastic


Adult supervision required: small parts, possible choking hazard


Please read the procedure before beginning! After reading, please watch the video. Some activities require more time and cleanup than others. You also have the choice of performing these activities in a way that suits your needs.



  • Quartz Crystals
  • Cylindrical container
  • Tissue Paper
  • Markers
  • Washi Tape
  • Scissors (not included)


  1. Test the triboluminescence of the quartz by striking them together like a match in a dimly lit room. Can you see the light?
  2. On the tissue paper, draw pictures! These can look similar to petroglyphs drawn by the Ute or other artworks you’ve seen! (see other page for ideas, or watch the video for more information!)
  3. Place your crystals inside the tube and close it.
  4. Tape the paper around the container, trimming the excess if necessary.
  5. Shake your container! Can you see the light from the crystals hitting each other? What happens if you shake them lightly? What happens if you shake them with a lot of force?
  6. Every so often, take the crystals out to wipe them down and remove the dust.

Science Behind It!

Triboluminescence is the creation of light using mechanical movements like ripping, pulling, crushing or rubbing items together. In quartz crystals, rubbing the sides creates a warm-looking light. If you were to crush sugar cubes, it could produce a blue light.

The Anthropology Behind

The Ute are a Native American tribe located in the areas around Colorado, Utah, Eastern Nevada, Northern New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming. In various ceremonies, the Ute used rawhide rattles filled with the quartz crystals they found in the Colorado Mountains.