Nine Smarty Pants Ways To Enjoy Snow

Snow Crystal Study by Wilson A. Bentley 1902, www.photolib.noaa.gov

1. Photograph snowflakes

Snowflakes may be everywhere, but they’re reluctant to pose for photos. They twirl away in the wind, clump together, or simply melt when you breathe on them. Persistence is the key. Get out there when flakes are falling slowly and there’s little to no wind.

We’ve had some success with this method. Take heavy dark blue or black plastic outdoors (we use the kitchen garbage can set on its side). Place it in a bright area without shadows and let it chill to air temperature. Quickly photograph flakes as they settle on the surface. It’s best if you keep the camera on a tripod and use a macro setting. You’re likely to get a few amazing images.

2. Grow your own snowflakes

This experiment calls for things we don’t usually have around the house like Styrofoam cups, Coke bottles, and dry ice. But it’s worth it to briefly impersonate Boreas, the ancient Greek god of winter.

3. Chill with some snowflake history

Wilson A. Bentley, a homeschooled Vermont farm boy born in 1865, became an amateur scientist and artist whose work remains a standard in the field. Get inspired by Bentley’s dedication. Let younger kids dig into the book Snowflake Bentley. Teens and adults can handle the whole scoop in The Snowflake Man: A Biography of Wilson A. Bentley. If you become dedicated Bentley-ites, head to Bentley’s hometown to explore a museum exhibit all about him at the Jericho Historical Society.

4. Identify snowflakes

Learn to recognize basic snowflake shapes as they fall on your sleeve or cling to the window.  Or go out hunting for snowflake types. Take along Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes. You might want to make quick sketches in a journal (still possible while wearing mittens). Enough snowflake stalking and you can I.D. quite a few. If you need bragging rights, remember that snowflake chasers are probably a much hardier breed than birdwatchers.

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/kids/snowtypes

5. Make snow candy

It’s complicated and unusual enough to be memorable. Try the maple syrup method or the brown sugar and molasses method.

6. See if snowflake science is flakey

Do snowflakes always have six branches? Are most snowflakes damaged before they land? What are the chances a similar snowflake has fallen in Earth’s history?

Find the answers. Kids from 4 to 8 will enjoy The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder and The Snowflake : A Water Cycle Story. Ages 8 to 12 will get a lot out of The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes. And everyone can benefit from the mesmerizing photos and science resources found in The Snowflake.

7. Investigate other crystals

Grow salt crystals, borax crystals, alum crystals, or the ever-reliable rock candy.

8. Make paper snowflakes

Lacy snowflake cut-outs dangling from thread are classic winter decorations. Plus they have a lot to teach us about symmetry. And patience. For ideas, check out Snowflakes for all Seasons: 72 Fold & Cut Paper Snowflakes and Snowflakes: Creative Paper Cutouts.

Or get wild and skip all design recommendations. Just fold, cut, and unfold. The results are likely to be as unique as, well, a snowflake.

9. Freeze snowballs

Time to stock up. Get outside to pack lots of nice tight snowballs to save for those long snow-free months. If you have plentyof room, let each member of the family freeze and label his or her personal bag of snowballs.

Then wait patiently. On the steamiest, most uncomfortable day of summer get those snowballs out. You’ll find something to do with them, guaranteed.

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.