Winter Storm Jonas left us here in NYC huddled up for the weekend, baking cookies, snuggling on the couch, and watching Alan Rickman movies in memoriam. But schools were back in session again on Monday, despite sometimes impassible sidewalks and questionably plowed roads in some of the outer-lying neighborhoods. So since the snow is everywhere, why not use it to brighten up the classroom and engage your students?
Here are 7 ways to incorporate snow in your classroom. And if you don’t want to take your class out to the yard to do this work, you could totally send a few helpers out with cookie sheets and aluminum roasting pans to collect snow for you, and literally incorporate snow into your classroom.
- Make your own snowfall calculation. Ok, a little late for this one, but for the next snowstorm, if it starts snowing during school hours, you know the kiddos aren’t going to be able to sit still and ignore it anyway, so make it a teachable moment. Take a large, flat-ish container (a trusty aluminum roasting pan would do the trick), weight it down, and check every 30 minutes to measure how much snow has accumulated. Leave it overnight to compare the next morning. Record your findings on a graph.
- 5 senses exploration.
- Conduct a brief science experiment. Bring in 3 trays of snow (again, aluminum roasting pans work well for this). They don’t have to be full. Leave one loose, pack the second loosely into a mound, and pack the third very tightly, like a snowball. Watch and see how long each takes to melt. If you want to be super accurate, weigh the trays beforehand to make sure you have equal amounts of snow in each. Do they melt at the same rate or not? If you have the really little bitties, just watching the snow melt can be a good lesson in states of matter. Leave it out for a few days and see how long it takes to evaporate.
- Writing in snow. Another one for the little bitties. You can take them outside for this if you still have sufficient snow cover on the ground, or collect some snow in your trusty aluminum roasting pans, two or three inches so you have something to work with, and scrape the top flat with a ruler or other straight-edge. Then have students practice drawing shapes, letters, numbers, whatever they’re working on. Once they’ve drawn a shape, they can “erase” it using the straight-edge and start again. This works best with powdery snow. Once the snow has gotten crusty, it tends to clump and is much harder to “erase,” so they’ll probably just be able to make one letter, like in my example picture. But the sensory experience of making the shape in snow will stick with them.
- Snow angels. Again, can do outdoor or indoor, and does not require snow angels in the traditional sense – this is just an exploration of symmetry. Have students plant both hands (or feet, or whatever) in the snow and see the pattern it makes. They can use other objects to make patterns also, and talk about whether those designs meet the standards of symmetry. As before, they can erase whenever they want (if the snow is powdery enough), but you can also let them take digital photos of their designs before erasing so there’s a record. Try shining a flashlight horizontally across the design to emphasize the shadows for a better picture.
- 3D Geometry sculpture. Let students create 3D shapes in their snow trays. Spheres, cones, pyramids, boxes, etc. Build snow castles! Take pictures, discuss, compare and contrast, etc.
- Get artistic. You can paint snow with tempera. Place some thick, sturdy watercolor paper or cardstock on the bottom of your aluminum tray (you’ll probably need one for every student) and spread an even layer of snow, 1-2 inches across. Paint the snow with tempera, then let it melt and dry overnight, and see what the painting turned into! If you’re really adventurous and have a class set of smocks, let the kids make small snowballs, paint them, and then hurl them at a large piece of posterboard taped to the ground. When it melts and dries, you might have something Jackson Pollock-worthy!
What do you do with the kids when it snows? What ideas did I miss? I’d love to hear!