Start with a winter scavenger hunt. Go outdoors and try to find one item for each category listed below. No fair using the same item for more than one category. This is great fun for groups to compete.
|You might find maple seeds like these.|
Try to find:
Something older than you are
Something younger than you are
Something that will change in the spring
A bird feather
You'll need a can at least ten inches (25 centimeters) tall with straight sides. Try to collect your snow sample shortly after the snow stops falling. Fill your sampling can, but don't pack the snow.
Next, take the can indoors and let the water melt.
Try keeping a record of each new snowfall for the rest of the winter. Which months had the wettest snow? If you keep your tracking going, find out how one year's snowfalls compare to another.
By the way, I spent one winter at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. I'd always heard that, if temperatures were below -60F (-51C) boiling water thrown into the air would freeze before it hit the ground. I had a chance to test it because that winter the temperatures dropped as low as -129F. The boiling water immediately turned into tiny sparkling ice crystals.
|This is a great winter time read--don't miss it.|
The Winter of the Blue Snow
Have you ever heard of Paul Bunyan? He was a giant of a man--and I mean a real giant, so the stories go. There are tales about the lumber camp he ran in the far North.
One of those is about the winter of the blue snow.
Not that eating was easy once you got to the table. When Hot Biscuit Slim, the cook, set coffee out to cool, the steaming brew froze so fast that the ice was hot. The men had to eat with their mittens on because the hot biscuits froze solid before they went the distance from plate to mouth.
Conversations around the bunkhouse were slowed down mightily that super-cold winter. Words froze as fast as they were spoken. Piles of icy words had to be heaped behind the stove because nobody could tell what had been said until the words thawed out.
About the time summer was due, the weather got even colder and the blue snow kept on falling. Snowdrifts piled up two hundred feet (60 meters) deep. Elevators were built just to carry the men from the bunkhouse to the surface. To log the trees, Paul had to scoop out holes and lower his men down to the forest.
What you don't believe this wintery tale?
Make up one of your own packed full of all the things that might happen if it was super cold and the snow was super deep.
One of the most famous blizzards ever recorded was during the winter of 1888. Thirty to forty inches (75-100 cm) of snow and ice was dump on the Northeastern United States. That was before snowplows and entire cities were helpless for weeks. Before the blizzard was over four hundred people had died.
While no two snowflakes are ever exactly alike (as far as anyone knows), they are all hexagone--six-sided crystals. Snowflakes take several main shapes.
To preserve snowflakes so you can even take them inside with you you'll need a can of plastic spray--the kind artists use on chalk drawings.
Chill the spray along with the clean glass slide. Carry the glass slide outside on a piece of cardboard. This keeps your body heat from warming the glass. Spray the glass lightly with the plastic coating. Let snowflakes collect on the glass. Take the preserved snowflakes inside and let the plastic coating completely dry (about fifteen minutes).
|Check out this book about Wilson Bentley.|
His photos of snowflakes became world famous.
Now you can examine the snowflakes with a magnifying glass or a microscope if you have one. No need to rush. These snowflakes will stay crystal-clear forever.
When the ground's covered with snow, it's the perfect time to collect animal tracks like these.
Take along an adult partner and a digital camera. Snap photos of any animal tracks you find. Back home, look on-line to match the prints you found to the animal. Google images is one good source to check out.
While you're at it try to decide what the animal might have been doing at the time it left its tracks. Was it running or walking? How do you think you could tell? Try making tracks of your own running and walking and observe the difference. It's even more fun if you find overlapping sets of tracks from different animals. Now, make up a story for what might have happened. Was one animal there first? Was one animal chasing the other? There's a new story in every set of snow tracks you find--even if they're people footprints.
Watch Birds Share A Treat
You can get a good look at birds that spend the winter in your neighborhood, if you invite them to dinner. An easy treat to make is a peanut butter pinecone. Loop a string around the top of a pine cone and tie a knot. Next, smear peanut butter on the cone and roll the cone in birdseed. Then have an adult partner hang the pinecone where birds will be able to perch and eat.
Now, keep watch. Use bird books and search on-line to help you identify the birds visiting your bird diner. Also, answer these questions:
1. What time of day do the birds come to eat?
2. Do the birds come more on stormy or sunny days?
3. Do the birds take turns and feed one at a time? Or do they compete to eat?
4. Which birds usually chase other birds away?
Create a colorful bar graph to share the data you collect about your dinner guests.
Remember, to replace your pinecone with a fresh treat from time-to-time to keep the dinners coming back for more.