Learning about the properties of snow is a fun way to work on science skills. Snow lessons can be taught in any climate. There are several science concepts to teach during snow activities: the physical state of snow, temperatures, weight, soft and hard textures. Math concepts can also be introduced: discuss shapes, and one to one correspondence. The students’ developmental age will determine the depth of your lesson. Some of your students may be ready for snow and science concepts to be introduced. They may be at the beginning stage of the lesson. Some students may have an understanding of the vocabulary and are ready for more in depth exploration. As you adjust your lessons according to readiness, the students will increase their knowledge about snow and its properties. The following concepts can easily be modified for introductions, explorations, experimentation, and concept development. There is so much to learn about snow, that you can work on the lesson for several weeks.
Solid and Liquid
Create a lesson plan to teach your students about the changes of the physical state of snow. Students can learn about the snow as liquid and solid. Present the snow as cold water, partially frozen, and as snowflakes/pieces. Put the three states on individual trays for exploration. Next present the snow in varying states on one tray for exploration. Use appropriate vocabulary to describe the water/snow. Some of your students may be ready for first, second and third or first, then and next. For example, you might say first we start with water, then it begins to freeze, and next it becomes snow. Other students may learn the differences in the states. Together discuss the water: it is cold, we can splash in it, and it is wet. Then discuss the water partially frozen: it is icy, it’s hard, it’s slippery. This language is probably somewhat new to the students. As they explore the materials, the students will become more familiar and develop a greater understanding. Next, explore the physical changes as the snow changes from solid to liquid. Leave out the snow and watch/feel it melt. Discuss with your students that as the snow gets warm, it will melt. Repeat this experiment several times during the activity, trying it with different snowballs. This can be done by placing 4 snowballs on a tray, lined up in a row. Have the student choose a snowball, then hold it in their hands (have them wear mittens). Talk about the snow as it melts. If your student isn’t ready to hold a snowball, hold it for them with your hand open. Encourage them to occasionally touch the snow as it melts.
Soft and Hard
Snow can be both soft and hard. Students can experiment with the snow, and make it soft and hard. First, present soft snow on a tray. Encourage the students to touch the snow- use the vocabulary word Soft to describe the snow. Play with the snow, use hand under hand exploration if necessary. Next present the snow as a snowball. Introduce the vocabulary word hard. Again, explore the hard snowball. The next step in the lesson is to present the snow as soft snowflakes and as hard snowballs on the same tray. Discuss the words soft and hard. You can test for understanding by having the student use touch, eye gaze, head turning, vocalizations or facial expressions to locate the soft and hard snow. Finally, teach them how to experiment with the snow. Practice forming the snow in their hands. Smash the snowballs they made, then touch the smashed snow. Students can smash the snow with their fists, hands, feet or toy hammer.
Creating different shapes with snow is a fun way to introduce 3d shapes sphere/circle, cube/square. Most young students are ready for the introduction, which should be the focus of your lesson, rather than identification of the shapes. Molding snowballs in your hands is an easy way to make circles/spheres. Students can use hand under hand movements to make the snowballs with you. Press snow into an ice cube tray to make cubes. Another option is to use sand toy molds to make 3d shapes.
Snowflakes (or crushed ice if you have made your own “snow” are very light. Snowballs are heavy. Use the appropriate vocabulary when you are playing with the snow. It isn’t necessary to do a separate lesson on light and heavy. That can be boring and difficult for a student to follow. Instead, as your student is playing and experimenting with the snow, use the new words.
Playing with snow offers an opportunity to discuss warm and cold. When the student touches the snow, talk about how cold it is. Then help them put on mittens and discuss “warm”. Talk about cold hands and warm hands while you are playing with the snow. When you are outside, integrate the word cold into your conversation. “It is cold outside, let’s go inside and get warm.” Once you are inside, reiterate the temperature. “It is warm inside. Let’s talk off your coat”.
Playing with snow is a lot of fun for young students. Snow lessons work well for students of varying abilities because the snow is portable and can be brought to the students. You can also play with the snow indoors, so that your students may stay warm while playing. In warm climates, make “snow” by using either a snow kit or by crushing ice. It isn’t the same as the real snow, but it is a very good substitute.