Investigating Precipitation: Snow
In this chemistry field/class based activity, students investigate snow and, more specifically, why snowflakes have six sides. Students will individually fossilize a snowflake and observe similarities and differences with other members in the class. Students will develop a testable question about the formation of snowflakes, and will learn about the water molecule bonds that form the hexagonal symmetry of a snowflake.
Through this activity students will understand water's molecular structure and hydrogen bonds at a very basic level. They will recognize that snowflakes have six sides because of the bond's hexagonal nature.
Context for Use
Resource Type: ActivitiesClassroom Activity, Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Description and Teaching Materials
Students will need to dress appropriately for outdoor lab. Each student will receive a small piece of transparency paper (about size of a credit card). Teacher will spray clear finish Krylon on paper outside (spray must be kept in freezer overnight or longer). Student will then "catch" a falling snowflake. Snowflakes will be kept under a box outside to set/dry.
Examine snowflakes with hand lenses. Observe similarities and differences with other students. Teacher will help lead to the question "why does every snowflake have six points?" Read the story "Snowflake Bently" by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
Discuss the properties of water molecules. Build water molecules with colored marshmallows and toothpicks.
Make a Borax snowflake. Use boiling water and make a saturated solution with common cleaner Borax in a wide-mouthed jar. Students will create their own six-sided figure out of pipe cleaners to fit inside of the jar. The pipe cleaner design should be suspended in solution by a string attached to a pencil laying across the top of the jar. Leave the project alone overnight and see the development of the crystals on the pipe cleaner.
Teaching Notes and Tips
220.127.116.11.2 Physical science