No Two Snowflakes Are Alike?

Robyn Johnson,
Clearbrook-Gonvick Public Sch.
Clearbrook, MN 56634
Author Profile


We will read "Snowflake Bentley" and talk about it. I am hoping to steer the conversation toward the shape and designs of snowflakes. We will research snowflake designs using the Internet and a few books I have collected. The final assessment will be the students' original designs, and I will be looking for symmetry and originality.

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Learning Goals

Students will observe different snowflakes and identify how they are alike and different. Students will also learn the nature of Science and its History by reading about Wilson A. Bentley's life and work.

Context for Use

I plan to use these lessons in my 3rd grade regular education classroom of about 20 students. I anticipate this will be done in 3 parts, each lasting up to an hour.


-"Snowflake Bentley" by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

-Internet access

-Other snowflake identification books or resources such as "Snowflakes in Photographs" by W.A. Bentley and "Easy to Make Decorative Paper Snowflakes"

-Transparency film cut into credit card size pieces

-Krylon clear acrylic spray kept in the freezer

-Graph paper




Subject: Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science

Description and Teaching Materials

Day One: Begin by reading the book, "Snowflake Bentley" and discussing his life. Then look at what he found out about snowflakes. His books are available at his web site. Make copies of some snowflakes and compare them. Identify some things that are alike and some characteristics that are different.
Day Two: Students will capture some snowflake prints themselves. Using the transparency film, cut into credit card-size pieces. Spray the cold Krylon clear acrylic on the film and have students try to catch a snowflake on the sticky film. This is not easy. The day needs to be fairly quiet, snowing, and cold. Once they have a snowflake on their film, it needs to dry outside. I want to hang ours outside the classroom window on a small clothesline, using clothespins. They will dry slowly. Not all the samples will make visible prints, but then neither did Mr. Bentley's.
Day Three: Students will draw their own snowflakes using graph paper, rulers, and compasses. They can follow basic designs that were studied and then add a new part to make it original or make a completely new design. Hang or display these in the classroom or hallway for others to admire. Attach a student written summary of the process used to learn about snowflakes, to the drawings.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Most students have warm clothes, but some don't. For those who don't have what they need, you may need to bring some of your own from home or discuss this in class and other students can bring some from home. I should also say that it is discouraging when the prints don't turn out. I think this can be a perfect opportunity to reflect back to Mr. Bentley's life and talk about how many times his photos were poor and how he kept trying. Science is a process and by the end of this activity you will probably have some very specific do's and don'ts for collecting snowflake prints.


Participation is vital, and so are their own drawings. I will not assess them based on how perfectly their snowflakes have symmetry or other technical elements, but rather on their ability to write about and discuss the process we went through.


1. Nature of Science: Scientific world view that science is a tool to examine the world. Students will explore the use of science to investigate and answer questions about the environment.
2. Inquiry: students will research and observe snowflakes and extend this lesson into math, science, and art.

References and Resources