I’m not going to lie. Winter can get LONG and gruesome here in the upper Midwest. When kids are cooped up in a school building all day, with no recess, and dreary weather conditions, we all start to go a little kkkoo-kkkoo (that’s me shivering)! So I say, embrace the cold weather and make the best of it in order to beat those bothersome winter blues.
Snowflakes are quite extraordinary and lend themselves to loads of winter wonder and engaging learning opportunities. Read on for math and science grab-and-go activities that have been teacher-tested and kid-approved for years in my classroom with students PreK through grade four.
Use these books to pique interest in the math and science facts behind the unique wonders of snowflakes.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Ever since Willie Bentley was a young boy, he was fascinated with snowflakes. He looked at them under a microscope and studied their icy crystals. He even drew pictures of them, finding no two snowflakes exactly alike.
The Science of Winter's Wonder: The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino Jon Nelson
An in-depth exploration of snowflakes, with spectacular photographs and interesting project ideas. "A contagious sense of wonder."—Booklist, starred review
RI.4.3. Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
I love how beautifully snowflakes lend themselves to the study of math concepts, particularly geometry. Using the books above, examine the absolutely amazing images of snowflake crystals. Facilitate a class discussion about the geometric shapes (both 2-D and 3-D) that they see in the photos and illustrations.
Introduce the concept of symmetry. You may want to have your students scan the QR code below to access informational tutorials on the concept of symmetry before beginning any snowflake symmetry activities below.
Using images of real snowflakes, have students explore various lines of symmetry and geometric shapes identifiable in each of the snowflake images.
Have students cut out their own paper snowflakes following THESE DIRECTIONS. They may cut any design into their snowflakes. As students unfold, they will see folded lines of symmetry and may then KINESTHETICALLY experiment with folding their flakes different ways to test out varied lines of symmetry.
Once students have explored, it’s time to test their symmetry skills. Using the free download below, get students started drawing their own lines of symmetry on the snowflake graphics. Then, after practicing on the sample freebie, have students revisit the images of real snowflakes (above) or use printed copies of snowflakes from you to continue identifying and drawing lines of symmetry.
Stretch students’ visual/spatial application of snowflake symmetry by giving them half of a snowflake design and challenging them to create an identically symmetrical second half by drawing it themselves. This is both a creative and fun way to extend student experience with symmetry. Use the free download below to get started!
Whether you’re brave enough to get into a real class snowball fight (I wouldn’t advise it!) or you prefer to use paper or cotton balls with the fun target, having fun with a snowball fight can be a great way to learn about, graph, and track data.
Throw the snowball (paper or cotton ball) at least 20 times for each player.
Using a simple grid that students can make themselves, record which target each snowball hits or gets the closest to.
After you finish a round with your partner, complete the calculations to determine ratio, fractions, decimals, and percentages for each target possible.
Then, compare all data by identifying mean, median, and mode.
Challenge yourself by playing more than one round and comparing data.
Graph all data using graph paper and data style of your choice (line, bar, plot) to chart your findings.
Click on the image below for the FREE DOWNLOADS!
I followed this simple, two-ingredient recipe from Two Sisters Crafting to create perfectly realistic snow for my son’s winter party. It was super cool and easy to make. The kids went absolutely nuts for this stuff, and it’s a great lesson both in sensory exploration and changing states of matter.
2 16-oz. boxes of cornstarch
1 can of shaving cream
Silver glitter (optional)
Pour both 16-oz. boxes of cornstarch into a large bowl.
Add some shaving cream into the bowl, working in the shaving cream in small batches.
Knead the shaving cream into the cornstarch until blended well, fluffy, and similar to the consistency of freshly fallen snow.
Transfer to play area or baggies for students.
Clean up any mess!
To make your snow more damp and packable, add more shaving cream or less corn starch.
To make your snow feel cold, keep ingredients cold prior to use.
Add a little sparkle to your snow with glitter or fake snowflakes.
Using a potato masher is the perfect way to blend together the ingredients.
Mix and play with the snow in washtubs, storage tubs, or (ideally) a sensory trough/table.
Using either the books listed above, images available online, or by catching snowflakes onto black construction paper and then putting them under a microscope, let students examine the crystalline structure of real snowflakes. Then, simulate and examine forming snowflake crystals of your own by following the directions below for this fun, artistic way to explore snowflakes from Ingrid Science.
Epsom salts (available at a pharmacy)
Make a solution of 1:1 Epsom salts:boiling water
Shake or stir until all the crystals are dissolved
Use a paintbrush to paint the Epsom salt solution onto dark, thick paper
Lay the painting flat to dry
As the liquid dries out long, spiky Epsom salt crystals form
The paintings look best under a bright light
Notes: You need to act fast after making the solution, as the crystals start forming quickly, and should not be disturbed after they start to form. Give the students trays of Epsom salt solution big enough that they do not cool down too fast. Ideally, students make big blobs of Epsom salt solution on their painting, then leave the brush stroke alone, to allow the longest crystals to form.
Can’t get enough of snowflakes? Check out these other Scholastic resources to extend your learning experiences with this frosty fun. From ELA, to changing states of matter, and even cute crafts, Scholastic has a BLIZZARD of resources ready at your fingertips! Try a few today to brighten up your wintery week!