Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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The Science of Snowflakes

Lisa Harpel, one of our wonderful science teachers has made it a mission to get rid of 4 and 8 sided paper snowflakes in our region. She wants students to know the science behind the snow. Each year about this time, she sends out a reminder about snowflakes and educates us on the Science of Snowflakes. I thought I'd share her message with you.

Decorative paper flakes and window paint flakes magically appear all over Mount Vernon at this time of year. Do you count the points or sides like I do? And hope the answer is six?

Of course, it is only iconic, perfect snowflakes which have six sides or points. The authors at this website . say they took over 7000 pictures to get the approximately 60 pictures in the website gallery. Obviously, perfect snow crystals are not common.

But in some things, perfection is the goal. We want our students to know that snow crystals don't have four or eight sides. In fact, I have a dream that one year we will see only six-sided snowflakes everywhere we look in Mount Vernon.

By the time the students get to chemistry, I can teach them that the four electron domains in the water molecule are approximately evenly repelled and produce a molecule with a structural angle of just over 104 degrees. This, combined with the hydrogen bonding between the water molecules, produces crystals with a hexagonal lattice structure, which is the foundation for the shape of the snow crystal.

For your students, folding the paper correctly may be the appropriate focus. Here are some simple directions.

You can cut digital snowflakes at the SnowDays site or make a 3-D "snowflake" here

And here is another lovely image:

Out of the bosom of the Air
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Happy Hexagonal Snowflaking,
Lisa Harpel
MVHS Science Teacher

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