Secrets of Snow | Day 2

A Week of Snow Discovery for You and Your Little Explorer

Yesterday, for snow week, we covered some snow vocabulary. Today we are going to study how snow forms.To make this lesson concise, we are going to cover the average six-sided snowflake. At the end of this post you will find some links and images to further your study of snowflakes that are not the norm.

Essentially, snowflakes are ice crystals that are created when¬†water vapors freeze in the atmosphere. But if you look closely, you’ll discover snowflakes have very intricate and beautifully symmetrical designs. When I was young I wondered if Jack Frost or winter faeries might have something magical to do with it. I can not prove they do not ūüėČ but I can help you and your little explorer discover the science of how snow forms in nature.

Tiny Hexagonal Ice Crystals

The birth of a snowflake happens up in the clouds where vapors change slowly into water droplets and begin freezing into tiny, smooth, hexagon-shaped ice crystals.

Growing Corners

Water molecules become attracted to these ice crystals, like a magnet. Since the corners are the easiest to reach, arms of ice begin to grow.

Unique & Complex Designs Begin

As the ice crystal passes up and down through different temperatures, hexagon-shaped plates of ice grow on the ends of the ice branches (or arms) and grow branches of their own.

Symmetry by Condition

As snowflakes travel, grow, and even melt before growing some more, each ice crystal branch is affected by the same conditions of temperature. “Because each arm sees the same conditions, each arms grows the same way,”¬†¬Ļ this is what makes snowflakes symmetrical.

Snow Fall

Finally, when the snowflake is heavy enough, it falls toward the ground. As it falls into warmer temperatures, it may slowly melt rounding off the sharp edges of its complex design before it reaches us.

More Shapes and Designs in Snowflakes

If you want a more in-depth study on the shapes of snowflakes, you should definitely checkout this post from Compound Interest. It provides an easy-to-read downloadable chart for your educational use, plus, it is a great read.

Snowflake Shape Diagram

“Snowflakes: Classifications & Shapes” by Andy Brunning from Compound Interest. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivitives license.


Other Sources

Frequently Asked Questions
… Things you always wanted to know about snow crystals … from Snow Crystals .com

Symmetry of Snowflakes from Wolaver .com

Why Are Snowflakes Always Six-Sided? by Matthew R Francis
Snowflakes are NOT always six-sided, however, this article explains the science of hydrogen bonding which in turn, explains why six-sided snowflakes are the norm.

Share Your Lessons With Us

Don’t forget to¬†tag your snow lesson pictures and posts on¬†Instagram and Twitter with @Pinecone_Grove and #PGLessonPlans.


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