Backyard Connections: Going on a Snowflake Hunt

by Melissa Harding

This activity was inspired by Science Friday; check out their great video on snowflakes to learn more about how they form and the scientists that study them.

Today is a very snowy day at Phipps and it has got us thinking about some of our favorite snowy day activities. While it may not be fun to shovel, it sure is fun to play in. Snowball fights, building snowmen, and sled riding are just a few of the fun activities that you can do as a family in the snow. However, if you are looking for a more low-key snow activity, try this idea: Take your family on a snowflake hunt!

Snowflakes are the most basic parts of snow, after all, and each one is unique. A snowflake is formed around a tiny bit of dust in the atmosphere that builds up into slightly larger bits of ice called crystals; when these crystals start to stick together, they form snowflakes. A snowflake can be made of as many as 200 crystals! Although we may all draw snowflakes the same way in art class, they actually come in many different shapes – from the classic pointy star to round plates and square cubes. Taking a closer look at an individual snowflake is pretty amazing; while the best way to see a single snowflake is under a microscope, you can still observe quite a bit with a magnifying glass.

To go on a snowflake hunt, you will need the following things: a snowy day, a piece of dark construction paper, a magnifying glass and journaling supplies:

1. Put your paper in the freezer or leave it in a cold, dry place so that it can get nicely chilled.
2. Holding the paper by its edges, go outside and catch some snowflakes on the paper.
3. Use your magnifying glass to look at the snowflakes on your paper (cover your nose and mouth with a scarf so that you don’t melt your snowflakes!)
4. Draw your favorite snowflakes in your journal, nothing overall shape, number of points (if any) and anything else of note. Which is the most popular shape of snowflake? Which one was the weirdest?
5. Try to look for as many different kinds of snowflakes as possible

This activity is a great way to practice observation skills while enjoying the winter weather. You can spend 5 minutes or 50 working on this project – it can be fun for even your littlest of kids! Have a cold day but no snow? Try using your trusty magnifying glass to examine frosty windowpanes. The crystal patterns of the frost are just as neat as snowflakes and can be observed from inside!

For more fun snowy day ideas, read this blog post on exploring nature in winter!

To learn more about the importance of observation, check out this post!

The above video is used courtesy of Science Friday.




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