Nature Connection #9 – Snowflakes

I’m wishing and dreaming for snowflakes. As a weatherman put it just last week, we had June-uary, not January. But snow could be on the way this month, and the time to learn about snow is NOW!

Snow is a word that can describe lots of different weather phenomena. It can be more than just an icy, solid form of precipitation. These differences are unimportant to most of us. We are either thrilled or wary when it snows! If we further define ‘snow’ it can become sleet, sneet (snow and sleet) or even ice.They are all cold and white, but description, and personal experience, make all the difference. A weatherman can describe snow flurries, snow showers, snow squalls and blizzards. Fact is, they are all SNOW.

Snow crystals come in six basic patterns: star, dendrite, column, plate, column capped with plates, and needle. All snowflakes are six-sided. Like human fingerprints, none of them are truly alike! Their molecular and atomic structure is different.

Snow actually reflects more light than water. It reflects up to 95 percent of the sunlight or moonlight that shines on it, whereas the Sun’s reflectivity on open water is only 10 to 15 percent.

Fresh, fluffy snow absorbs sound waves, and creates that deep, winter silence we have all experienced. When snow hardens it reflects sound waves, making sounds seem exceptionally clear.  
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Here’s a fun activity to get kids thinking about snow. I’ve added my own emphasis to this adaptation from Play Lightly on the Earth by Jacqueline Horsfall. Her activity is called, “Say My Way.”

No materials are needed, except an outdoors area with a ground cover of snow. Snow can be falling, or not. (Dress warmly for this activity!)

Step 1: Go outside to the area you have selected. If you are alone, think of the word “snow.” If others are with you, say the word outloud.

Step 2: Say the word ‘snow’ outloud again and this time, each person should describe something about it. (Snow can be cold, wet, and white, but it can also be hard, icy and round or soft, pretty and delicate.

Step 3: Experience snow using all of your senses. Touch it, taste it, feel it, smell it, hear it.
 
Step 4: Pretend that SNOW had no name. Based on its appearance and your sensations, give snow a name (example might be, white feathers.)

Step 5: Pretend that you are describing snow to someone who had never seen it before. What would you say?

DISCUSSION: Can things have more than one name? Why is it important for something like snow to have lots of names? Why is it important for it to have one primary name?

MORE SNOW FACTS:

Snowmelt contributes up to 75 percent of the annual water supply for the western United States.

Walking a mile through 6 inches of snow takes as much effort as walking 2 miles on bare ground.

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Finally, let me share with you my favorite ‘snow’ poem, by Robert Frost.

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Final note: from the Farmer’s Almanac: “If February give much snow, A fine summer it doth foreshow!”

I wish it to be true!

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