The Winter Journal: Entry #6 ~ Winter Weather and Snow

We completed the winter series on snow at Handbook of Nature Study using the book Discover Nature in Winter. This lesson also ties in nicely with this week's winter series challenge on winter weather! {Note: these activities were spread out over several weeks!}

First, we went on a trip to our land in Montana (about a 3 hour drive). We have 22 acres of forest land in the Beartooth Mountains. In the winter, our property is only accessible by four wheel drive and right now, the road going into our property is not accessible at all, so we hiked in. I was so excited to see what it looked like in winter, all covered with snow. We purchased the land this past Spring and we have loved watching the changes through the seasons, as we explore. 22 acres of mountain side is a lot (for us) to explore and it seems every time we go on a hike we see something new. I am especially looking forward to including the kids in more nature study, instead of just nature walks and hikes this year. This past Spring and Summer, we mostly studied weeds (what I thought were flowers originally) in hopes of identifying some wild edibles. We found some edible flower bulbs (the Sego Lily) and hope to see them again this year. But, I really need to start thinking about purchasing a wild edible field guide.

Here is Elli as we were hiking in ~ I just love her in pink.

After this trip, I decided we need to make snow shoes. We may try to make some with willow branches and para-cord, but I will be searching 2nd hand stores for some old tennis rackets to try, too. I can see how they will come in handy up there.

The blueberries we planted this fall are only partially buried under the insulating snow (we learned that snow is insulating), so I hope that they make it through the winter. The strawberries were completely covered.

We went up again last Friday and after this trip I decided we no longer need snow shoes. We need 4-wheel drive. We are in a valley, and driving in was easy enough, but the whole time we were there I kept thinking that it was not going to be so easy to get out. And once we tried, I did not think we would make it back out again (without being towed). I tried to imagine what it would like to back down the long winding road (backwards and avoiding the drop off on the side) to get a longer run for it. And I was driving. I had to so the men could push. We got stuck about 100 or so yards from the top of our road (on a hill!). Jordan had a great idea to shovel the snow away so that the tires would grab some gravel. So the guys shoveled a little path about 10 feet in front of the van. Once my tires grabbed the gravel and I was able to move, I didn't stop! I drove all the way to the top of the ridge (plowing through a few snow drifts and praying the whole time) and the guys pushing me had to ride in the back of the truck behind me. Thankfully, we were not alone! So now, we are just praying (and trusting) that the right 4x4 will come along. =)

Since this post is also about weather, I will throw in the fact that snow is cold. Brrr! Mali is warming himself by the kerosene heater in our (unfinished) cabin.
Wyoming winters are wild. You never know what you are going to get one day to the next. It can be snowy and overcast one hour and the sun will come out the next. So we try to be prepared.

Snow Activities: Snowflake Formation and Shape

We learned how a snowflake is formed:
  1. condensation forms around a dust particle
  2. droplet grows
  3. it freezes into an ice crystal
  4. crystal grows six branches with arms
  5. crystal grows heavier as more vapor condenses and begins to fall
  6. continued condensation changes crystal's shape as it falls
  7. crystals fall out of cloud into warmer air where they clump together to form snow
(Made us think twice about eating snow!) We put a piece of black paper in the freezer and use it to catch freshly fallen snowflakes. (Of course, Nathan said his coat worked just as well).

Our goal was to examine snowflake shapes: plates, columns, capped columns, needles, spatial dendrites, steller or dendrite crystals and irregular.

Snow Produces Water

We filled a bowl with 10 cups of snow and let it melt to find out how many cups of newly fallen snow it takes to make one cup. We need more snow if it is freshly fallen because the snow is loosely packed. We read that it takes 10 cups of newly fallen to snow to make 1 cup of water. You need 3-5 cups of densely packed snow to make a cup.

We brought it in and set the bowl on the heater. We measured 1 1/4 cups of water from the melted snow. (Pretty close!)

Color and Snow Melt

On a sunny day, we placed different colors of construction paper on the snow to see if color affects snow melt. You can see in the second picture that the papers are getting wet from the snow melt. The white paper was not wet at all yet and the kids discovered that dark colors (especially the black) affected snow melt the most.

Melt Power of Snowballs

On which surface do we think snow will melt the fastest?

wood, aluminum, black foam, glass, cardboard, styrofoam

We thought the wood and foam would melt the snow quicker than the glass (because the glass felt colder to the touch). We also thought that the aluminum foil would melt it slower than the others, but it melted the snow the quickest.

Here is the melting power of the materials we used: (in order from greatest to least)
  1. aluminum foil
  2. styrofoam tray
  3. cardboard
  4. glass
  5. wood
  6. black foam
Temperature and Snow Melt

Does the temperature of snow change as it melts?

We were totally expecting it too, but it remained at 30 degrees F. Was it supposed to change?

Comparing Snow and Ice Melt

I did this experiment with Malachi. I had him gather equal amounts of snow. We formed a snowball with one. The other we melted and froze it in the freezer in a paper cup (hence why the ice is so dirty). Then I had him guess which one he thought would melt first. (He thought the ice would.) He learned that a snowball melts more quickly than an equal amount of water frozen because a snowball has more surface exposed to the air. (I explained that the air can travel through the snow ball.)

Would you believe that I had more activities planned? This one was hard to time, because we were at the mercy of the weather. We had snow, but then it all melted. Then it snowed during the night, which gave us fresh snow for one activity. But then and I really wanted to catch snowflakes, so we waited for snow during the day, which finally happened a few days ago!

We also completed the Winter Sky challenge, but I am hoping my boys will be interested in doing a watercolor of the full moon we saw the other night. So, I hope to share that soon!