Thursday, January 22, 2009

Winter Wednesday Snow Experiments

Our Winter Wednesday activities for this week allowed us to make many new discoveries about snow. Working from the book "Discover Nature in Winter", we read Chapter 2 and learned that snow is made up of ice crystals of many shapes, and that its moisture content depends on different factors.

Our first experiment involved laying construction paper on the snow and leaving it for 3 hours to see which color would soak up the most sun and thus sink the furthest into the snow. My son guessed that black would sink the most and he was right. The next color that sank the furthest was blue, followed by green, orange, yellow and finally white. No surprises there.

Above is a picture of the snow after removing the construction paper. The black snow above represents where the black paper was and hopefully you can see the indentation of the snow along with where the other colors were. The black snow also has a particularly deep depression where my dog decided to check out our experiment and stepped on the black paper. A controlled scientific experiment this wasn't.

Our second experiment involved seeing how much moisture was found in the different layers of snow on the ground . We took 2 cups of snow from the bottom of the snow pack and 2 cups from the fluffy snow at the top of the pack so that we could see which part of the snow pack contained the most water. The snow at the bottom of the pack near the ground contained 1 cup of water per 2 cups or 50% water, where the snow at the top was 25% water.

Our final experiment involved discovering which would begin to melt first, an equal amount of water frozen into into an ice cube or contained in a snowball. As you can see above, I made my first fatal error when I made the snowball the same size as the ice cube rather than having the water amount in each equal. The snowball (using snow from the top of our snow pack) would have to be 4 times bigger than the ice cube for this to be the case.
I didn't realize this mistake until my results varied dramatically with what the book said would happen. The book says a snowball will melt faster than an ice cube because the snowball has more surface area than an ice cube has. My results were exactly the opposite by a long shot. Both times I ran the experiment, the snowball took almost 3 times longer to begin to melt. Of course my son was happy because he guessed the ice cube would melt faster. Once I realized that I had done the experiment improperly, I should have run it again to see if the snowball really would begin to melt faster but by that point, I was tired of running back and forth between the yard and house scooping up snow and snatching ice cubes from the freezer and waiting for things to melt. Maybe another day. If anyone has done this experiment successfully, I would love to know what you discovered.
To view past Winter Wednesday posts, please click here


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

I really enjoyed reading your entry and I am so glad that you did the colored paper activity. It is one I have wanted to do with my boys and now I can share your results. :)

Great job on the other experiments too. I know we learn just as much when we don't exactly get the results we science.

Thanks for sharing your link,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Shannon and Alex said...

Well, this was a fine example of homeschooling! I can't believe you live in St. Charles! My uncle married a nurse there and they live right on the Fox River during summer. At present, they're wintering in Tucson. He has some GREAT astronomy photos I thought St. Charles was just lovely!!

Darcy said...

Hi Shannon,

I checked out your uncle's astronomy blog and it's great! I also checked out your blog and enjoyed it as well.