How to make science is "snow" much fun! (no cold weather required)

Here in Texas, is seems like we get about 5 days of (and by winter I mean it gets below 65)! Now, we have read about snow in books, discussed it when talking about weather, and even sang about it in songs like "Frosty the Snowman" but  a majority of my students have never actually seen snow. If I could not bring them real snow, I wanted to at least let my deprived little Texans experience fake snow by incorporating it into a science lesson. It was a huge hit and an experience the students will not soon forget! 

We started the lesson off with a simple experiment about absorption.

I began by asking the students if they knew what the word "absorb" meant and while there were several guesses, nobody had a clue! I told them instead of telling them what it meant, I would show them with a science investigation.

Materials needed for the investigation:

-Paper towel
-Tray (optional but recommended)

First, I poured some water onto the tray and ask students where the water went. They all looked at me like, "Is this a trick question?" and of course answered on the tray!

Then, I pulled out the paper towel and asked them to hypothesize what would happen to the water when I placed the paper towel over it. Would the water move to the paper towel or would it stay on the tray?

Most students have cleaned up a mess before (or at least seen someone else do it) so a majority of them confidently guessed the water was going to go on the paper towel.

I then asked, "Where did the water go?" and they were able to explain to me that it was inside of the paper towel. I told them this is a perfect example of the word absorb! Something absorbs when it can soak up water! I then asked, "Can we get the water back out of the towel?" and they were all about to tell me if you squeezed the towel, the water would come back out!

Other questions:
  • Did the tray absorb any water?
  • Do you think the sponge will absorb water?
  • Will a (pencil, block, any non-absorbent object) absorb water?
  • How are the objects that absorbed different from the ones that did not absorb?
Now here comes the really fun part! I explained that we were going to use our new learning about absorption to make our own snow! Students helped me measure out the snow powder on a tray and we described the characteristics of the powder.
Then, students predicted what would happen if we poured water over the powder.

Just 1/8th of a cup turned from this

to this!

They were so excited to each get their own bag of "snow" to take home. 

As an extension or an independent activity, I put several objects in a muffin tin (some that absorb and some that do not) along with a pipette and a small glass of water. Students tested the objects to see which ones absorbed and which ones did not. Then, they recorded those objects on a t-chart.

If you would like to make snow with your students, you can find the snow I used by clicking the image below.

This bag makes 10 GALLONS of snow which is enough to send some home with students and have plenty left over for a sensory table or have students "finger write" in workstations or centers.  

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