Snow explorations

The snow was lovely for me, arriving on a  Friday night after my children were home and  enough neighbors were in town to make the  shoveling more of a community gathering  than a huge chore.

I did wish that school was in session so I  could learn what my students would do with  20 inches of snow, an unusual amount for our  region and a first for their young lives.

I would have the children measure the snow depth around the playground using a stick and record the depth by drawing the length on paper, scoop snow and build up ramps for sliding mini-sleds (bowls) down, fill a measuring cup full of snow to take inside to see how much water is in one cup of snow, and dig down in the sand pit to see how the snow affected the sand. Would children work long enough to mound snow high enough (on the otherwise flat playground) for themselves to slide down?

Looking to northern regions I found suggestions for snow activities.

  • From Wings of Discovery in Ontario Canada, a program developed by Let’s Talk Science to help children develop important skills while having fun exploring the world through science:
    • Take a walk in the snow with your child. Look for footprints made by animals and people.  Use a field guide to identify them if you wish.
    • Bring a dishpan full of snow inside for your child to explore. Talk about how the warm temperature inside causes the snow to melt.
    • Fill spray bottles with coloured water to colour outdoor snow sculptures.
    • When outside, point out the melting snow or ice and ask your child to tell you why it is melting.
  • From Sheri Amsel’s Exploring Nature Educational Resource in New York:
    • Where Do Animals Go in Winter? Find information and beautiful scientific illustrations to answer your children’s questions.
  • In the December 2009 Science and Children, the Natural Resources column, “Winter Secrets” by Valynda Mayes shares a list of in-print resources.

Speaking of in-print resources, reading aloud a fiction and a nonfiction book on the same day (or even same circle time if student attention allows) can help children relate new information to their own experiences. Try these books.


  • Snow and the Earth and Snow and People, both by Nikki Bundey (2000 and 2001, Lerner) which relate how snow is formed and how people live in regions with snow. The photographs support, and expand on, the text.


  • It’s Snowing by Olivier Dunrea (2002, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), tells of a mother who shares the joy of a snow fall with a very young child.
  • The Big Snow by Berta Hader and Elmer Hader (2005, Alladin). Do you remember this 1949 Caldecott Medal tale of animals coming to the food put out by an older couple? Still in print because it’s so enjoyable.
  • First Snow by Emily Arnold McCully (2003, HarperCollins) A mouse family goes sledding in this formerly, now nearly, wordless book with lots of detail in the illustrations to talk about.
  • Snow by Manya Stojic (2002, Knopf). Forest animals remark on the coming snow and the various ways they will adapt their behavior to survive it.
  • And of course, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962, Viking), in which Peter explores a snowfall and tries to bring a small piece of it home.

So I’m hoping for more snow in January, enough to explore but not enough to close school. And if the children do not come dressed for the weather, I’ll bring the snow inside. How about you? Are you living where the children always come to school with boots, mittens, and hats, or where the only snow people are those made from marshmallows?


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  1. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    We may be getting what I wished for, a bit more snow, and now I’m hoping it won’t happen until next week. Will a few inches of snow keep families from coming to a Science Saturday program this weekend? It’s a family science day where the children can show their families some of the activities we’ve done this school year. I’m afraid that the snow combined with <30*F temperatures will discourage some families from participating since many will be coming on foot, pushing strollers. On the other hand, we may get more fathers if bad weather keeps construction work from progressing. I'm looking forward to seeing how/if the children will teach their parents.

  2. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    The Science Saturday was canceled twice due to snow…and we’re getting another 10-15 inches tonight. See the National Weather Service’s National Snow Analyses maps at
    for information on Snow Water Equivalent and Snow Depth maps and more.
    Teachers who thought their “unit” on snow was complete will now be able to really explore in depth : )

  3. Kristen Younce
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Where exactly are you located? We are in Southern Alabama and were out of school last week due to a chance of snow, but it didn’t snow very much at all. The only snow people we see are those made out of marshmellows. 🙂 We thought the snow activities you found on the website from Canada were very neat, especially the one about using colored water to decorate the snow sculptures outside. If only it would snow down here…

  4. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Kristen—be careful what you wish for…we’re looking at possibly adding time to the end of the school day to make up lost instructional time. That is fine for many students but hopefully kindergarten teachers will be able to take their classes outside for some gross motor learning.
    I bet you could do the snow painting activity using crushed ice, if anyone has a snow cone machine.

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