Feb 12, 2020

Snowflake Science

Yesterday we had a Snowflake Science program full of cold, wintry goodness. In case you missed the event or want to recreate the experiments at home, here is a list of the activities!

Ice Fishing


  • 4-6 Ice cubes
  • Drinking Glass
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Salt
  • Twine


  • Fill a drinking glass with water. Add a couple drops of food coloring (blue is fun to use!) and mix well. Add ice cubes to the glass. 
  • Lay a piece of twine over an ice cube.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the string and the ice cube. Wait 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Gently pull the string up and out of the glass. The ice cube should come along with it! 
How It Works: 
Salt causes ice to melt by lowering its freezing point. Just think about how we use salt on icy roads and sidewalks during the winter. In this experiment the salt causes the ice cube to melt, but the surrounding water is still so cold that it causes the ice cube to freeze again with the string.

Snow Cloud in a Jar


  • Large, wide-mouth jar 
  • Shaving Cream
  • Water
  • Food Coloring 


  • Fill a large, wide-mouth jar with water. Leave room at the top for a generous amount of shaving cream.
  • Add a few large blobs of shaving cream to the top of the water.
  • Add drops of food coloring to the shaving cream. Watch the food coloring seep down through the shaving cream and into the water. 
How It Works:
Even though you can't see them, water droplets are in the air all around you. A cloud forms when a million or so water droplets come together. When the cloud grows too heavy, gravity pulls the water droplets down as either raindrops or snowflakes. In this experiment the shaving cream represents a cloud and the food coloring represents water droplets. As the water droplets saturate the cloud, the cloud gets so heavy that it can no longer hold more water. It then "snows" down into the jar. 

Ice Cream in a Bag

  • 1/2 Cup Half and Half
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 3 Cups Ice
  • 1/3 Cup Kosher or Rock Salt
  • 1 Gallon sized plastic bag
  • 1 Quart sized plastic bag
  • Spoon
  • Towel or oven mitts (optional)
  • Place the ice and salt in the gallon plastic bag. Set aside.
  • In the quart bag, place the half and half, vanilla, and sugar. Close and seal the bag tightly.
  • Place the quart bag inside the gallon bag and seal. 
  • Shake the bag for roughly five minutes. The bag will get cold so use oven mitts or a towel to protect your hands. 
  • When the mixture in the quart bag has an ice cream consistency, open and eat! 
How It Works:
As mentioned above, salt causes ice to melt by lowering its freezing point. Heat also helps ice to melt. In this experiment the ice mixes with the salt and pulls heat from the cream mixture in order to melt. Because the cream mixture loses heat, it becomes cold and turns into ice cream. 

Snowflake Crystals

  • Glass jar
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Pencil
  • 3 Tablespoons Borax
  • 1 Cup Water
  • Cut and twist pipe cleaners into a snowflake shape.
  • Cut a piece of yarn. Tie one end to your pipe cleaner snowflake and the other around your pencil. 
  • Heat water. For every one cup of water, add 3 tablespoons of Borax. Add the tablespoons of Borax one at a time, stirring well after each addition until the Borax completely dissolves.
  • Pour the water and Borax solution into the jar. Let your snowflake hang in the jar while the pencil rests on top. 
  • Let your snowflake hang overnight. Carefully remove the snowflake the next morning and let it dry. 
How It Works:
Crystals form when a liquid cools very slowly, or when water evaporates from a solution, leaving the remaining parts to form into geometric shapes. In this experiment the Borax and water solution cooled all through the night. The water evaporated and the Borax left behind started forming shapes (crystals) around the pipe cleaner. 

Compare and Contrast Snow:

Snow #1: Steve Spangler's Insta-Snow 
Remember watching Steve Spangler make elephant toothpaste on Ellen? He's created a polymer powder mix that grows into snow within seconds of adding a little water. Find Insta-Snow to purchase here or here. We purchased the 3.5 ounce bag from Amazon and had plenty leftover after making snow for 25 kids. 

Snow #2: Paper Towel Snow

  • 1 Full Sheet Paper Towel 
  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar
  • Bowl
  • Spoon


  • Shred a full sheet of paper towel into tiny pieces. Place pieces in a bowl.
  • Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the bowl and start to mix.
  • Slowly add vinegar to the bowl and continue mixing. Your mixture should resemble wet snow.
Snow #3: Conditioner Snow

  • 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
  • 2 Tablespoons Hair Conditioner
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Combine 1/2 cup of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of hair conditioner in a bowl. Your mixture should resemble a dense snow that is easy to mold into shape. 
Questions to Think About:
How cold is the snow that you've made? How does it compare to the temperature of real snow?
Does it feel like snow? Look like snow?
How well can the snow be formed into a snowball?
Does the snow appear to be melting?
Can you make a hand print in the snow?

STEM Challenges:
These activities were available at stations that the kids could explore independently. 

Float the Boat:
Quick! The Abominable Snowman is after your treasure! You need a boat that will safely carry your shiny pennies across the water. Build a boat that is able to carry as many pennies as possible without sinking. You may only use aluminum foil to build your boat.

  • Aluminum foil
  • 20-50 pennies
  • Large plastic tub full of water 
Snow Sculpture:
You have been asked to create a sculpture for the school's winter skating party - the tallest sculpture the school has ever seen! Construct the tallest, freestanding structure possible with the materials provided.

  • Spaghetti Noodles
  • Mini and Jumbo-Sized Marshmallows
  • Toothpicks 
Snow Fortress:
The Abominable Snowman's cave was taken over by bats and he needs a new hideout. Create an awesome fortress for him out of the materials provided. Use a Styrofoam cup to represent the snow monster. 

  • Styrofoam cups
  • Sugar cubes
  • Marshmallows 
  • Toothpicks 
Snowflake Shapes:
Did you know that each snowflake is unique? No two snowflakes are the same! Create a unique snowflake that contains at least three different geometric shapes. 

  • Construction Paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Q-Tips
  • Pom poms
  • Buttons
  • Pipe cleaners 
Snow Scoop:
Oh no! There was a blizzard over night! You have to shovel the parking lot before the library opens for the day. Build a snow shovel that removes the most amount of snow possible in the least amount of time. 

  • Roasting pan or tray filled with rice 
  • Index cards
  • Aluminum foil
  • Straws
  • Masking Tape
  • Binder Clips
  • Coffee Filters
  • Rubber bands
Images and experiments can be found at Delish, Fun Learning for Kids, Little Bins for Little Hands, and The Homeschool Scientist.