Monday, January 21, 2013

Grow Your Own Snow Crystals

One of my favorite science units is our snow unit. While most of my students have seen snow, there are always a few students each year who have never played in the fluffy white stuff. (It's pushing 60 degrees as I sit here and type this in January...) I bring the snow to them and we have so much fun learning about how snowflakes form in the clouds. We learn about snowflake photographers, make Borax snow crystals, and have snow ball fights in the classroom. 

I begin the unit by reading Snowflake Bentley, a delightful story about the first person to ever photograph snowflakes - Wilson Bentley. The students love hearing about a man who devoted his free time to taking pictures of fragile snow crystals before they melted. This short youtube clip is extremely informative. Their favorite part of the video is being able to see his close up photographs of the tiny snow crystals - seconds before they disappeared. 

The most exciting part of the snow unit is making our own snow crystals right inside the classroom. I first learned about this project while completing field work for my education degree. You'll need: 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster, boiling water, white pipe cleaners, white string, popsicle sticks and several glass jars. Once you have gathered all of the supplies, follow the instructions below to create snow crystals with your students: 

1. Cut each white pipe cleaner into thirds - enough for your entire class. 

2. Instruct the students to form the snowflake by twisting the pipe cleaners together in the middle. They should be able to form a snowflake with six arms. 

3. Tie the completed pipe cleaner snowflake to a white string. Then, tie the string to a popsicle stick that is labeled with the child's name. 

4. Use boiling water to fill up a glass jar. Add approximately three tablespoons of Borax laundry booster for every cup of boiling water. (This suggestion came from this website, but I just keep adding Borax until it looks like enough. The sizes of the glass jars vary greatly, because I ask each student to bring one in from home.) I err on the side of using too much Borax. If there is not enough, the crystals won't form. 

5. Use a spoon to stir the Borax in with the boiled water until most of it has dissolved. The water should be mostly clear, but it's okay if it's a bit cloudy. 

6. Hang the snowflake from the top of the jar. Be careful to not let any part of the pipe cleaner touch the sides or bottom of the jar. 

7. Let the snowflakes sit undisturbed overnight. In the morning, the students will be greeted with snow crystals! The "oohs" and "ahhs" coming from their mouths can be compared to a spectacular 4th of July fireworks show! They just love this experiment. 

8. Dump out the water and let the snowflakes dry for a day or two before sending them home with your students. 

I hope you get the opportunity to complete this fun experiment with your class. If you do, be sure to tell me how it turned out. 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! 



Melinda said...

This is so cool! Shepherd's class has some sort of snow table that they play with in their room... I'm not sure what it is, but when you spray it with water, you can make snowballs and do all sorts of stuff with it. They just call it indoor snow. :)

I love this though! I want to try it.

Heather said...

The "indoor snow" table sounds fun!

And, yes you should try this with the kids and let me know how it goes! They will love seeing the crystals on the pipe cleaners the next day!

Heather's Heart said...

This is always such a fun experiment! We are making crystal hearts for Valentine's. =)

I am happy to be your newest follower. I would love for you to hop over and visit me when you get the chance. I just shared some groundhog *freebies*.

Heather's Heart

Heather said...

Heather - The hearts will be cute. Maybe I'll do my snow unit closer to Valentine's Day next year! :) I'll be sure to check out your blog!

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