a BES literature connection
Produced by students in Biology in Elementary Schools, a Saint Michael's College class.
Other resources can be found at the Biology in Elementary Schools home page.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is an excellent book to read when doing any activity involving snow. This book can be connected to the snow graphing activity in an introductory lesson. The book is about Wilson Bentley, from Jericho Vermont. At one point he was considered the world's expert on snowflakes. He discovered that no two snowflakes are the same. This is a concept that resonates with children in the sense that they are also all unique and special. This book can also therefore be linked to lessons on traits and individuality. It can also be linked to a unit on weather or meteorology.
To use this book to introduce snow graphing to your students (best done before you are expecting a snowstorm, while there is already some snow on the ground):
Time frame: 90 minutes
Introduction: Hold up the book and ask what students think you will be reading about.
Tell students that the book has to do with something that happens a lot in Vermont, and as you read, ask them if they can pick up on it. This should immediately grab their attention.
1) Read the book to students.
2) Ask important questions about Snowflake Bentley. These questions will vary by age. Ask students about the science related to the book like "What did Bentley use to study snowflakes?" Ask if students think that they could also study snowflakes the way that Bentley did. You can also construct a worksheet that more directly connects the book to your activity. This will also vary based on grade level.
This literary activity relates to Snow graphing
3) Take students outside to look closely at the snow. Find a place where there is clean snow and have students practice using the five senses. Have them practice using thier observation skills. Help them to notice things like how the snow makes a crunching noise when you step on it, or how it muffles sounds when it falls.
4) Bring students inside and tell them that you will also be studying snow in an upcoming lesson. See if they can guess what they will be doing. Give them clues like showing them a ruler or a blank piece of graph paper.
Conclusion: Have students take home a writing assignment about snow that relates to the science you will be doing in your classroom.
Helpful questions for Handout/ Homework assignment (students can do this with their parents as it may be challenging):
1) When you looked at snowflakes today, did you look so close that you could see its sides and shape? What did it look like? Draw a picture.
2) What kind of scientific instruments did Snowflake Bentley use to study snow?
3) How can you study snow? Make a list of ways you could use science to better understand snow. (example: Todays activity using the five senses and observation skills). Have your parents help you come up with ideas. Draw a picture of the materials you would need for your idea.
Many children are fascinated by snow. Hopefully yours will enjoy exploring these ideas. Students should gain knowledge from this activity because they are forced to recall information from both verbal and written questions. Students will also gain comprehention by explaining questions in their own words, and transforming some of the questions from the discussion from verbal to written form. Students apply their new knowledge of what Snowflake Bentley did and connect it to their own ideas to determine how they can also study snow and use science. In a way, students experience synthesis by coming up with their own ideas that relate to the reading, but that are independent of it. They also draw pictures of their science ideas and writing essays to answer the questions. Students will not evaluate the usefulness of this lesson during this activity.
Briggs Martin, Jaqueline, 1998, Snowflake Bentley, Houghton Mifflin.