More snow? Counting and science in winter cold

snow person smiling
If you still have snow in your region, you may be looking for new ideas on how to use it to develop children’s understanding of concepts such as the properties of water including freezing and melting, and measuring. Observing weather patterns over time, classifying different kinds of materials by their observable properties (including water as solid ice and in liquid form), and making observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface are all part of the Performance Expectations and Disciplinary Core Ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards.
A poster size picture of a snow person where children have drawn each item added, 1-10, from I hope some of these ideas will inspire you or become part of your class’s on-going investigation into weather or the properties of water:

  • Build a person out of snow, and on every subsequent day, add another item to the sculpture. A hat, arms, eyes, and more. On the tenth day you add something (if the snow person hasn’t melted yet), read Denise Fleming’s The First Day of Winter.  As a group or individually, have children recall and draw the snowman in the story or the one they built, and all the accessories.
  • A 1cmx1cm grid on dark paper shows the size of snow flakes.As children watch snow falling, they can measure the size of the snowflakes. This measuring has to happen in very cold weather, or quickly before the flakes melt. Make a tool for estimating the size of a flake by drawing a 1 centimeter by 1 centimeter square grid on a dark sheet of paper with a white colored pencil. Put the paper outside for a few minutes before using it so it can become cold. When the snowflakes land, children can say if the snowflake covers a small part of a square, half of it, or all of it. Children can notice the variety of snowflake crystal shapes on the dark paper. As the flakes melt, children can observe the change to a liquid.
  • Have children can fill a cup with loose scoops of snow and bring it inside to watch it melt. Have them measure the level of the snow in the cup using interlocking cubes or a standard measuring ruler. When the snow melts, children will be interested to see that the melted snow does not fill the cup. Measure the height of the water in the cup.
  • Child uses a dropper to add liquid water colors to snowballs while observing melting.Paint snow drifts and snowballs using liquid watercolor (dilute to save money) water and have children use a spray bottle or small dropper to create patterns and mix colors. Bring snow inside in a clear tub and have children use droppers for painting the snow, observing it as it melts.
  • Animal footprintsChildren can look for marks made in snow and try to guess how they were made—footprints, bird wings, blowing leaves or dripping water? If they are footprints, what size animal made them?
  • Children can make their own imprints in snow with feet, hands, elbows and heads, noticing how the snow compresses and the shapes they make.
  • Read about how animals keep warm in winter in A Warm Winter Tail  by Carrie A. Pearson,illustrated by Christina Wald (Sylvan Dell 2012). Then use the activity, “What is Your Cold Count?,” from Thinking BIG Learning BIG (Gryphon House 2009) by Marie Faust Evitt, to model how a layer of fat can keep us warm.
  • Take a walking fieldtrip and look for signs of frozen water, such as frost on a leaf or a frozen puddle.

A child discovers frost on fallen leaves.The experiences of other educators can help us plan ahead for “anything” whether it is a dead animal or a beautiful ice crystal structure. How will you and the children approach your discoveries physically and intellectually? Get ideas from educators who blog about their experiences:

  • Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth author Patty Born Selly blogged at Small Wonders about the time her children came upon a dead squirrel in winter.
  • Read Nature for Kids blog about Shawna’s experience chaperoning her child’s  ice fishing fieldtrip or how shoveling snow turned into a building session for young architects on the Nature for Kids Network blog.
  • Have your children set up and play “Ice Cube Hockey,” after viewing photos on Marie Faust Evitt’s post on the Gryphon House blog.
  • Read Tamra Willis’ ideas on “10 Reasons to Take Your Students Outside” on the Children & Nature Network’s blog.

Whether snow is an everyday experience for your region in March, or an unusual one, you can share your teaching about snow or in snowy environments with others by commenting below.

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