Family fun in the snow and with snow – Part 3: Making snow flakes

Children can learn snow flake science by making borax crystal snow flakes.

Winter is here and snow is most likely going to cover the ground, if it has not already. This is a perfect time to bundle up your kids and take them outside for some winter family fun. While your children are enjoying building a snowman, making snow angels, catching snow flakes or just simply are having fun playing in the snow, you can easily weave some science activities into your outdoor winter adventure. Michigan State University Extension recommends asking many open ended questions to stimulate your children’s critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills.

This is the final article in a series about about family fun in the snow or with snow.

When it snows your children may notice that snowflakes do not look alike. Snow flakes can be big and fluffy or small and fine. No two snow flakes look alike. Have children catch some snowflakes on a black piece of construction paper or black card stock. Then have them take a close look at the snow flakes if possible through a magnifying glass. What shapes of snowflakes can they recognize? The beauty and variety of snowflakes is amazing. Often times children want to take snow flakes, or snow, into the house and keep them, only to find out that unfortunately they melt very fast. An easy way to grow snow crystals indoors over night is explained in the following Borax Crystal Snowflake science experiment. All you need is:

  • White pipe cleaners
  • String
  • Wide mouthed jar
  • Borax
  • A pencil or small wooden rod
  • Boiling water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Adult supervision

Cut the pipe cleaners into three equal pieces and twist the sections together to make a six sided star. Cut a 4 inch length of string and attach it to one side of the star, then tie the other end of the string to the pencil (or wooden rod). The length of the string should be such that the star can hang freely inside the jar without touching the bottom. Pour boiling water into the jar, add three tablespoons of Borax for each cup of boiling water, and stir. Here adult supervision is needed! Now hang the pipe cleaner snow flake into the jar with the pencil resting on top of the jar. Make sure you have added enough water to fully submerge the snow flake. Set the jar aside and let it completely rest over night. The next morning your children will have a surprise: the pipe cleaner snow flake has turned into a beautiful crystal snow flake. It will make a beautiful winter decoration. Discuss with your children how this could have happened? Why did you use boiling water instead of cold water? When mixing Borax with boiling water you created a suspension, which contains solid particles. The Borax stays suspended longer in hot water than in cold water. As your water was cooling down the Borax began to settle

and to crystalize. Children can try this experiment with a variety of snow flake shapes by cutting paper snow flakes and turning your home into a winter wonderland.

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