Shared Learning Objectives

2000 - 2001 Project

District: Whitehall Central School
School Representative: John A. Mead
SLO Option 1 Project: SNOWFLAKES
Grade Level: First Grade
Subject Area: Science
Authored by: John A. Mead
E-mail: jamead@together.net
Home Page Address: www2.neric.



When the first snow of the season falls, it is not uncommon to see young children running about with their tongues protruding from their determined faces. Each child anticipating their first "catch" of the year. Since most, if not all, children are fascinated with snow, this lesson is very enjoyable for the students and their teacher.


The students will...


The students should already know...


The students should know...


The time required for this lesson/activity, as presented, is approximately 40 minutes.


for individual student use...

for the classroom demonstration...


Before you begin this activity, ask the students how many of them like to eat snow or catch snowflakes on their tongues. Usually the majority of the students will respond favorably. Expect a few "yellow" snow comments.

  1. Reintroduce the students on how to properly use the magnifying glass. Students should be able to focus on an object, keeping their faces a distance away from the lense. Students, at this age, tend to place the magnifying glass directly to their eye and move their heads to focus. Body heat from their faces and breathe shorten the veiwing time of snowflakes in this manner. Remind the students that breathing on them or getting too close will melt the snowflakes.

  2. Show the students how to hold the construction paper by holding the paper on one corner. This method keeps the paper cool by allowing for the least amount of body heat produced by the hand. Also, show the students how to cool the paper, once you go outside. Have the students flutter the paper back and forth. Keeping the construction paper as dry as possible will enable snowflakes to be observed longer before melting and this action will sufficiently chill the paper to the external air temperature.

  3. With the students properly dressed, parade them outside, with a magnifying glass in one hand and a piece of construction paper in the other. Start the students cooling their paper as soon as they get outside. Give a minute or so to cool the paper before you begin.

  4. Have the students begin catching snowflakes. Standing still and holding the paper horizontally is the best stalking method. Do not let the students scoop up snow from the ground, it gets the construction paper wet and there is little chance that a single snowflake can be observed. Every so often, have the students cool their papers. Some students may notice that they can observe snowflakes that have fallen on coats, hats or mittens. They may even start observing snowflakes on each other.

  5. After you are done with observing snowflakes, collect a clean sample of snow in a clear container, before you return to the classroom.

  6. Let the snow sample melt, while the students draw and write about the different snowflake shapes they observed. Allow them to use a snowflake classification sheet, as it helps them to remember what they saw. Of course, there is always at least one student that will instantly claim that all types were observed.

  7. Set up the funnel over the other empty container. The container should be large enough to collect the melted snow sample. Inside the funnel, place a cone of filter paper to collect anything that may have been inside the snow. If there is still snow left in the sample, ask the students for ideas on how to melt the snow faster. Try several methods that the students may come up with, such as rubbing your hands on the container, blowing in it, putting it in the sun or near the heater, run hot water on it or any other idea that they may come up with. SAFETY TIP: Do not heat up the container with an open flame or hot plate. The container may shatter.

  8. Pour the melted snow sample through the filter paper and collect any particulates. This may take some time as the water drains through. After the water is completely drained from the filter paper, show the students the "dirt" or "dust" collected. Use a microscope or magnifying glass for closer examination. A microscope would enhance the particulate observation, as students could see the actual grains of dust, dirt or bacteria (Bacteria is a common nucleus for snow formation). It is amazing what you can find in snow! Ask the question about how many students like to eat snow again. Notice any significant changes in their answers? Have the students draw or write about what they saw on their papers.

  9. Have the students present their drawings, writings, and observations to the class.


This lesson is easy to modify for any grade level. The lesson presented is geared to primary grade students, more specifically to first graders. Kindergarten and second grade students can do this without much modifications. For older students, advanced or enrichment classes, there are activities that can actually preserve snowflakes on glass slides. Also, more advanced studies of snowflake crystal classification and how they are related to temperature or other weather factors, can be focused on. There are links to appropriate sites in the LINKS: section of this activity.



MST Standard #1 - Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate, to pose questions, seek answers and develop solutions.

Performance Indicators:


MST Standard #2 - Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

Performance Indicators:


MST Standard #4 - Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

Performance Indicators:



ELA Standard #1 - Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.

Performance Indicators:


ELA Standard #3 - Students will read, write, listen and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.

Performance Indicators:


ELA Standard #4 - Students will read, write, listen, and speak for social interaction.

Performance Indicators:




The students will...


Here are several links to sites that have information on snowflakes.


This is an activity that I personally enjoy and have used it, in one form or another, with over 40 first grade classes. Since it is hard to write this activity in your plans ahead of time, you can do a preliminary lesson to prepare the students for what will happen when it does snow.