How Snowflakes Form: Homeschool Lesson Plan

Like it or not, it’s the beginning of winter.  Some of us have snow and others don’t.  Snowflakes are one of the tiniest miracles and a perfect opportunity to introduce science into your lesson plan.  Everyone knows that each snowflake is different, but do you know how they are made?  Here are some ideas for your homeschool lesson plan.

Books About Snowflakes

Kenneth Libbrecht has numerous books about snowflakes and their beauty.  I highly recommend The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes  and Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes.

Image credit and link sources: Amazon
 

These books easily explain the formation of ice crystals into snowflakes, not to mention they are full of beautiful images.  The books will even help you learn which type of snowflake to expect in different weather conditions (and tell you why).

How to Make a Crystal Snowflake

So how about making a snowflake with your children as you learn about them?  Paper snowflakes are not going to cut it for this.  If you are reading about the ice crystals forming, then you need to form some crystals!

Supplies

  • wide mouth jar
  • pipe cleaners/chenille stems
  • small piece of yarn
  • pencil
  • Borax

Make a Snowflake with Pipe Cleaners

Cut your pipe cleaners and have your children twist them to form a general shape of a snowflake.  The older the child, the more intricate the design can be.

You will need to keep in mind that the snowflake will need to fit inside the mouth of the jar, so trim if necessary.  Be sure to keep one branch long.  This will be the branch used to hang the snowflake.

Preparing the Snowflake and Jar

Tie the yarn piece into a loop.  Bend the long branch around the bottom of the loop and then twist the remaining onto itself.

Thread your pencil through the yarn loop.  Then let the snowflake hang in the jar while the pencil rests on top.  I recommend using a marker to make a line where you would need to fill the jar to ensure the entire snowflake will be submerged.

Making your Snowflake Solution

You will need to boil water to use in your mixture.  For the 24 oz pickle jar pictured we used 3 cups of already boiling water (so allow for evaporation).  To save time, have your water boiling as you make your snowflakes.

I poured 3 cups of boiling water in a large measuring cup.  Grown ups will need to do this step.  I used a measuring cup with a thick handle so my daughter could help with the actual mixing.

Add 3 tablespoons of Borax for each cup of water.  Add the tablespoons one at a time.  Stir in between each tablespoon until the Borax is dissolved.  I closely supervised my daughter while she added the Borax and stirred.

***Remember only you know what your child is ready to do.  These steps should be closely monitored for any aged child since there is boiling water involved.  If there is any doubt your child may harm themselves, then do this part yourself and have them watch from a safe distance***

Making the Crystal Snowflake

Remove your pipe cleaner snowflake from the jar.  Pour your solution into your jar  to the fill line (adult should do this step).  You will probably have left over solution.  The solution will be a little foggy.  Hang your snowflake in the jar as before, but now it will be in the solution.

Let the jar sit undisturbed for about 5 hours or overnight.  This is how ours looked after 5 hours.

After removing the snowflake from the solution I let it dry on a folded paper towel.  The kids loved touching it and feeling the crystals.

Just look at it.  It is cool!  We examined ours with a magnifying glass closely.

Possible Substitutions

Since Borax can be a dangerous substance to ingest, you can use alternatives to form the crystals.  Salt or sugar will work just as well.  One thing you do need to know is that a salt or sugar solution (prepared at the same ratio) will take MUCH longer.  So if you try these versions be patient and prepared for up to a week to grow the crystals.

 

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Comments

  1. 1

    Great instructions: easy to follow, easy materials, alternate suggestions (with pros/cons).
    I liked everything about this project because the person knew how to