Family fun in the snow and with snow – Part 1: Snow science

In the winter, children can discover science while playing in the snow.

Winter is quickly approaching and soon the ground will be covered with snow. This is a perfect time to bundle up your children and take them outside for some winter family fun. While your children are enjoying building a snowman, making snow angels, shoveling snow or catching snow flakes, you can easily incorporate some science activities into your outdoor winter adventure.

Michigan State University Extension recommends asking many open ended questions to stimulate your children’s critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. Disccuss with your children the different types of snow. For example, on cold days with little moisture in the air snowflakes are small, fine and dry. Snowflakes are big and fluffy on days with temperatures right below or above 32 F and high humidiy. Ask your children why dry snow works best for making designs like snow angels, and why snow that is wetter works best for making a snow man or building snow forts. Have your children collect some snow in two identical containers. In one container loosely put snow into it. In the other container the snow should be packed firmly. Both containers should be filled up to the same level. Now take both containers inside. Ask your children what they think will happen to the snow. As the snow melts have your children predict how much water there will be in each container. Once melted, measure the water levels and compare them to the original snow levels. How close were your children to their predictions? Have them measure how many ounces of water there are in each container. How many ounces of water did the compact snow produce compared to the loose snow? Additional snow flake science activities and some basic snow flake science is also available online. The Snow and Ice Data Center is another resource where you can find a wealth of snow related information.

Your children will not only enjoy playing in the snow and with the snow, but they will also be introduced to the basic concepts of science.

This was the first article in a series of three about snow science and activities with snow and in the snow. The next article will focus on tracks in the snow.

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