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Experiential Considerations.  In many parts of the world deciduous trees are bare and snow blankets the frozen ground. In other places, the sun is shining brightly and warm breezes lure both people and animals seeking refuge from the cold. Teaching young children who have never seen snow about the subject of snowflakes is different than teaching young children who have experiential references (a contextual reference) concerning snow, and can simply look out the window and "understand" snow.  But the reason why many birds and butterflies migrate to warmer climates is integrally related to a discussion of cold weather, snow and snowflakes. These cold weather forms of precipitation are the contextual basis for seasonal migration and give meaning to migration phenomena.

Choosing Your Content. For those living in colder climates, the primary exploration might be about snowflakes-snow with a tie-in to migration and other cold weather adaptations.  For those living in warmer climates, the primary exploration might focus on migration with a tie-in to cold weather and snowflakes.


How To Develop Your Snowflake Science Story

To develop content, begin by asking yourself questions about snowflakes. This process will be useful in developing your science story and will also provide you with questions for your in-class exploration. Incorporate process development skills in your exploration using: same, but different; compare & contrast; sort & match; and, what if...scenario-type questions. Ask the same questions in different ways.

In the process of asking questions and filling-in the blanks you will develop your science story.

 What is a snowflake?  How can we describe snowflakes? What is a snowflake made of?  How are snowflakes formed?  Where are snowflakes formed?  Do snowflakes have patterns?  Are all snowflakes the same?  How are snowflakes different?  How are snowflakes the same?  Where do snowflakes come from?  What is snow?  When do you see snowflakes?  Are snowflakes solid?  Are there always snowflakes?  What happens to snowflakes?  Why do snowflakes melt?  How are snowflakes and snow related? Why are snowflakes important?  What if there were no snowflakes?


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Developing Science Stories


Snowflake Patterns...Same, But Different.

Snowflakes have a multitude of patterns, but all snowflakes have six branches and are symmetrical. Each snowflake is made up of from 2 to about 200 separate crystals of different shapes (long needle shape; hollow column shaped like a six-sided prism; thin and flat six-sided plates; six-pointed stars and intricate dendrites) that join together to form a snowflake.

The snowflake can be drawn within a hexagonal shape.  Like the hexagon it has three lines of symmetry, three diagonals that “cut across” the snowflake to create these lines of symmetry.

How Snowflakes Form...
Like other solids that form a crystalline structure, snowflakes require seeding-a tiny center around which the delicate dendrites grow.  When water freezes inside a cloud, ice crystals form. More ice crystals join together around a single crystal to form a pattern. When the snowflakes become heavy enough they fall. When they hit the ground, they are called snow.

Contextual Activities

To reinforce your exploration of the geometry of snowflakes, try this three-piece snowflake puzzle that forms a hexagon or the 2-piece ice crystal puzzler.


You may find it helpful to review the various geometric shapes, counting the number of sides on triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons hexagons and octagons as part of your snowflake exploration.

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Science, Art & Math with iSAM



how2SNOWFLAKE "Homework"
Embedded Opportunities For Further Learning

If the opportunity arises take your class outside and try to catch snowflakes using a piece of dark construction paper or dark cloth. If there are no snowflakes, ask your class to try and catch a few flakes on their own when the opportunity presents itself.


Use the opportunity to discuss the “how's” of catching snowflakes.  Prime the follow-up exploration with questions.  For example, what happens if you get too close to a snowflake and breathe on it.


If snowflakes are not available but snow is, collect a cup of snow in a clear cup. Place the cup in a prominent location in the classroom and have your class observe the changes over time.


You can also see some amazing snowflake crystal pictures at

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Opportunities for Further Learning


Context & Connections

Performing a simple word association exercise can assist you in defining both context and relevant connections to a given topic.  The word associations provide you with connections, links to umbrella concepts that provide context to your exploration of snowflakes. Some connections are more relevant than others, and may be regionally and experientially dependent as well. 



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Snowflake word associations.



Snow-Precipitation-Water Cycle
Solid-State of Matter-Water

In the snowflake word association exercise, the subject of snowflakes-snow can also be directly linked to the water cycle. Again there are different challenges associated with exploring snowflakes with children in warm climates, but which can be addressed with appropriate "snowy" visuals and "icy" hands-on experiments.

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