The Art and Science of Snowflakes

The Art and Science of Snowflakes

For many children (and adults), waking up to snowflakes falling is a wondrous event. There is something special in seeing the sunlight reflecting off individual flakes as they fall to the ground to create piles of rolling snow to be played in later in the day.

What makes snowflakes so special? Is it because a snowstorm might mean a day off from school or getting to build a snowman? It goes far beyond that…we are homeschoolers, after all.

Thanks to Kristen of A Mom’s Quest to Teach for this guest post.

Science of Snowflakes

Did you know snowflakes have six sides? And there are no two snowflakes that are exactly alike. What else is similar to this? Two examples would be fingerprints and tigers’ stripes.

Snowflakes are actually made up of ice crystals clumped together. These form from water vapor in the clouds during a snowstorm. The whole process of snow formation relies upon super-cooled water droplets freezing, slowly evaporating and the vapor joining crystals to make them grow. The crystals are six-sided because the water molecules link together to form structures with six sides.

To examine snow crystals and snowflakes, go outside during a snowfall with a magnifying glass. You don’t need a very expensive magnifying glass. Depending how detailed you would like to view your snowflake, you can get one that magnifies 3x, 5x, or 10x for smaller crystals. What types of designs do you see?

Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a Vermont farmer, was the first to photograph a single snowflake crystal. As a farmer, he recorded the weather everyday in a notebook. He was young, about 15 years old, when his fascination with snowflakes started. He tried to draw the images he saw of them under his microscope but they melted too quickly. His parents bought him a camera and on January 15, 1885, he was finally able to photograph his first snow crystal.

Using Snow to Tell a Story

Look outside after a snowfall…what do you see? Can you find stories in the newly fallen snow? Look for tracks in the snow. Are they from birds, squirrels, rabbits, or something else? What do you think they were doing (walking, running, playing, looking for food)?


Constitutional Literacy by Michael Farris

Have your child write a story based upon the animal tracks you see in the snow. He can decide whether he wants to write a fictional piece in which the animals have families and lives, or a non-fiction piece in which he shares research about how the animal survives in the cold.

Do you or your children enjoy taking photographs? Grab your phone or your camera and create a story with photos of the snowfall. Create a story board to tell your tale of The Winter of 2018-2019. Or create a collection of snowflake photos like Bentley.

For younger children, go outside while it’s actively snowing and let them feel the snow as it melts on their face, hands, and even their tongue. Ask them to describe the experience. Write it down. These descriptive words would make for a perfect poem or short story!

Learning Vocabulary

Here are some snow-themed words that you can use as a winter vocab list, for spelling, or for copywork. I’ve created a free printable of these to make it easy!

  1. icicle
  2. freeze
  3. snow
  4. season
  5. temperature
  6. weather
  7. snowflake
  8. snowman
  9. snowstorm

Snow Mathematics and Fine Motor Activities

For younger children, snowflakes present the perfect opportunity to practice many different mathematical skills as well as activities to develop their fine motor skills.

You can print out several different clipart images of snowflakes and compare and contrast them. How they are the similar? How are the shapes different? You can have your kids practice drawing different snowflakes, too.

Have your child cut out some of the snowflakes, either the ones he drew or the clipart you were using. You can then use these to practice counting skills.

I have created a snowflake matching worksheet for you as well; this helps with shape recognition and comparing/contrasting.

Build a Snowflake

Materials (choose what you want to use depending on how you want to build a snowflake)

  • mini-marshmallows
  • toothpicks
  • craft sticks (various sizes)
  • glue (white or tacky glue)
  • foam adhesive stickers
  • dot Paints
  • markers
  • flitter pens

Gather all your materials to build your snowflake. Our family chose to make snowflakes we would be able to hang in our windows rather than build ones from mini-marshmallows and toothpicks (but this would be a fun way to create edible snowflakes!).

At first I let our two younger children arrange and rearrange the different craft sticks into different shapes. We discussed the fact that snowflakes have six sides, looked at some in coloring books and online, and finally picked the colors and sizes of craft sticks we were going to use in our project.

We put together one large one for our living room window using both markers and dot paints. I used small foam stickers to attach all the craft sticks. Our son picked out the smaller craft sticks to build his snowflake of blue and purple.

Our younger daughter used three of the largest craft sticks and four of the skinny ones to create more of a diamond-shaped snowflake (not very accurate but still very pretty).

This craft took approximately 60 minutes as I needed to help both our children put together the completed snowflakes. If they were older (maybe 6+), they would be able to complete more on their own and use either plain white glue or tacky glue for attaching the craft sticks.

We added the designs with the glitter pens because I am hoping the glitter will reflect the Christmas lights in the window to add some sparkle.


If you want to make snowflake after snowflake and reuse the same craft sticks, you can attach Velcro dots to the craft sticks. Also makes them create for practicing different shape designs.

Create a Snow Collection

Materials

  • small containers to hold snow
  • tape and marker to label containers with location and date
  • freezer to hold snow containers until you melt it
  • measuring cups

Collect a small container of snow from your home and then travel to different parts of town or your state to collect more snow. Label the containers where you collected it. Is the snow different from the different locations? Melt the snow. Is there the same amount of water produced in each of the samples? What do you think might account for differences and changes?

Snow might be seen as a drag for parents who have to shovel it, but for kids, it can be something interesting to study that only comes around for a few months of the year. Don’t forget to print out your freebies and have some fun teaching your kids!


Kristen is a housewife and mother to a teen stepson and two younger children (son, 5, and daughter, 3). She is a certified social studies teacher and has worked as a volunteer at a National Park site, in the education department of a metropolitan zoo, and as a high school history teacher. Kristen has maintained a blog where she relates her family’s learning experiences at A Mom’s Quest to Teach since 2015. Her blog is a regular column covering elements of teaching and learning (with an eye towards homeschooling), parenting, crafting, and all of the discoveries, joys, and daily roller coaster rides that occur while being a mom. Find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+.

Have some fun teaching about the art and science of snowflakes this winter with these tips. You can create the perfect snow unit study with just a few of the activities detailed here, plus the two freebies offered! #snowunitstudy #homeschooling #allthehomeschoolthings #amomsquesttoteach

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