We were hit with a big snowstorm today. What a great opportunity to teach preschoolers as much as possible about snow. Here is a list of all our learning activities today:
1) Measuring snowfall:
We took an empty, transparent container and wrote the time at the bottom. We then put this container outside and let Mother Nature take its course. Every once in a while, we took a look to see how much snow was in our container. It took Mother Nature a bit over 6 hours to fill our container with 16 cm of snow. That’s a lot of snow.
- Snowfall is measured in cm (at least it is in Canada)
- The meteorologists predict snowfall as best as they can, but it’s not until the snow actually falls that you can measure how much snow actually came down
For those of you who are keen on doing a more appropriate snowfall measure, take a look National Weather Service from Jackson KY website. They describe how they ask their volunteers to measure snowfall.
2) What happens when snow melts:
We took 2 empty containers that had cup measurements inscribed on one of their sides. We filled them both to the rim with snow. We brought one on the kitchen table and we put the other in the freezer. My oldest son knew it would melt and turn to water, but he thought the water level would be as high as the snow level. At first, little fingers could not be stopped from touching the snow which was quickly followed with remarks about the coldness of the snow.
After about 30 minutes, it was evident just by looking at the container on the table that the snow was melting and the volume was decreasing. I kept pointing out the water and the measurements to my kids. We started off with 10 cups of fluffy snow. We ended up with 1 1/2 cups of water. Many sources, including Environment Canada, suggest that snow measurement vs. melted water measurement (in cm) is roughly a 10:1 ratio.
I tried to explain this by stating that fluffy snow is like friends holding hands, but staying at arms’ length from one another, but that when it melts, all these friends then huddle together very closely. You still have the same amount of friends, they are just behaving differently. It went way over everybody’s head so we just kept moving on. But I think I’m onto something with this explanation and I wrote it here intentionally so that I can remember to use it again next year. We’ll see if it has more impact then or not.
The snow in our freezer remained relatively unchanged.
- When snow melts, it turns to water.
- Snow melts in warm environments (like a heated house), but not in cold environments (like outside on a cold winter day)
- The water level of melted snow is much smaller than that original snow level
3. What do snowflakes look like:
Before doing this experiment, I sprinkled a black sheet of felt with a bit of water and put the felt in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Then my son took the sheet of felt and held it outside to collect falling snow. We then brought it in to see if we could spot any snowflakes. We used a magnifying glass, which my kids found really fun. We saw a few well-formed snowflakes.
- Sometimes rain comes from clouds, but when it is really cold, these rain droplets turn into little ice particles that come together to form snowflakes.
- Each snowflake is a bit different from the other, even if we cannot see these differences with our eyes.
- We learned the meaning of the word “contrast” when we discussed why we used the black felt sheet to better see the white snowflakes.
Here is a cool video that shows the formation of snowflakes, a website that details all the different types of snowflake shapes, and and an animation that explains how temperature can change snow to sleet, freezing rain or just rain. Click on ‘continue to active figure’ to see the animation.
4. Snowflake craft activity:
We just cut a circle and folded it onto itself a few times and cut out some shapes. My kids had never done that, so they were quite amazed at the results. The kids wanted to give their paper snowflakes a feeling of being real, so we stuck them on a window that was right in front of a snow-covered tree. It makes the image a bit hard to see, but we captured the intent for the kids.
- We learned the meaning of the word “symmetry”.
Now that the storm seems to have settled, tomorrow will be all about playtime in the snow: snow angels, snowmen, sledding, digging snow tunnels, and maybe a bit of snow painting if time permits.