Six is the magic number for snow - did you know that? If you had a big magnifier and stepped outside with your children on a cold winter day to watch snow fall from the sky, here is what you might observe - six-sided hexagonal crystals, needles or flat six-sided crystals, and a wide variety of six-sided shapes. All snowflakes are a combination of the number six for simple chemical reasons - they're all variants of the water molecule. Despite all snowflakes having six sides, not two snowflakes are exactly identical. How crazy is that? Here are a few more fun facts about snowflakes as well as simple science activities you can do with your children.
Where Do Snowflakes Come From?
As obvious as this may sound, snowflakes—or more scientifically, snow crystals—are formed in clouds. However they are not frozen raindrops, as that's called sleet or hail. Snowflakes are a different cold weather phenomenon formed from water vapor that condenses around a tiny particle—the seed crystal, usually a speck of dust—in clouds. Cloud droplets condense around the seed crystal and freeze on the surface of the particle, patterns emerging as the crystals grow.
The shape of snowflakes is determined by the altitude and temperatures at which they are formed. When several crystals stick together or create puffy white balls, they become snowflakes. Once the snowflakes are heavy enough, they fall to the earth. The average snowflakes fall at an average speed of 3.1 miles per hour!
How Can You Watch Snowflakes?
The good news is, you don't need a fancy microscope to see the crystal formation of a snowflake. A cheap 5X magnifier, folding or Sherlock Holmes-type, is enough to start your snowflake-watching experience. Just make sure you have one handy, in your pocket or your purse, when snow starts falling.
Since the trick is to watch the snowflake before it melts, don't collect snowflakes on your hands. Watch them on the sleeve of your coat, on a dark square of felt or black paper. Imagine the thrill when your children will be able to distinguish tubes, columns or plates. Once you master the art of snowflake watching, print out this snowflake table and ask your children to recognize some of the patterns. Snowflake I-spy!
How Can You Make Snowflake Science At Home?
Here are a few ideas so children make their own snowflakes using varying materials such as...
And now get ready to sing your heart out: Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
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