Saturday, January 26, 2013

Science and the Snow Day!

Today I had to take a break from thinking about shadows. Why-SNOW! Excitement raced through our house last night as the fluffy, white stuff came down! This morning my son Hugh could not wait to get outside. As I walked out to take pictures of him riding his bike, I could not help but remember my own childhood and the time we had over  4 feet of snow. For three days we were out of school and enjoyed sledding, building a snowman, and having good old snowball fights with my brother!

Making snow angels!
Riding bikes can be fun in the snow-but you need your helmet Hugh!
Science and Snow Days!

As a science teacher, snow offers a great opportunity to make observations and do some experiments!  Snow is matter. It is matter that is in a solid form. How does it become a solid? It freezes! Water is a great substance! 

If we add a little heat to frozen water, guess what, it will melt! From a science perspective, it is simply changing states!! How do we get it back to a frozen state once it melts to the liquid state water?? We have to cool it to the point it freezes again. Science is so cool!

So here are some fun things to do today before the snow melts!

See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder is this great strategy that is quick and easy to use. Best part of this strategy is it gives parents a tool to have a conversation with your child without worrying about correct answers to their questions. Here is how it works!

Go outside and have your child just make observations. What do they see?  If they are like my children, they will say snow is white, looks fluffy, all over the place, and even they may say it might look like it is cold. Although we can’t really tell temperature from how it looks, let them get their hands in it to feel how cold!

Then ask them what does the snow make them think about.  Here are the responses I got: they thought about winter and how quiet it was when it was falling from the sky last night!

Lastly, ask them what do they wonder when they look at snow! This is the best part of the strategy! My children wondered how long it will last. Woo hoo! Here is a great question that we can explore a little further!

So to explore, have your kids make two snowballs.  Bring them in and put in the freezer until you are ready.
Our snowball!

First, have your kids take out the snowball and  explore the question how long will it take the snow to melt.  Put it in a container and time it.  While this is not an experiment, it is a great activity to learn more about melting snow.

How long will it take to melt?

It took an hour for our snowball to melt (we keep our house pretty warm-guess that explains our heating bill!).

To do an experiment, ask your children what they could change about the setup of the activity (this is what scientist call the independent variable). For example, Beth and Hugh said what would happen if we put the heater in front of it? Would it melt faster.  Great! So that is become our independent variable- what we changed. Then I ask them what would we observe or measure to see if putting it in front of the heater made it melt faster. "Duh mom-thought you were the science teacher" they said! "We will measure the time again. If it does not take as long, then the heat melted it faster!"

Great ideas guys! So we tried it. We put the heater snowball in front of the heater and guess what-it melted faster!
Snowball in front of our heater.
Try changing the size of the snowballs to see if it makes a difference on how long it takes to melt. Add food coloring to see if color makes a difference on melting time. Just think of different properties you can change.

If you are looking for a great literature tie into snow, here is a great story about a young boy who also learns heat make snow melt! Check it out here.

Designing opportunities for students to do real experiments begins when you simply get your kids asking questions! Go outside today and enjoy the time with your children! But do a little science along the way!

Gotta go have a good old Flannagan Snowball fight!

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