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Science of snowflakes includes math, artsy ornaments

Chemistry & keepsakes part of lesson

Kentwood — As the winter chill settled outside their classroom windows, the Pinewood Middle School sixth grade science classroom was a flurry of activity.

Students experimented with geometric shapes, crystals and measurements in learning the science of snowflakes. “They can be all kinds of shapes and sizes, and (I learned) the way that they formed,” said student Lily Pennock.

Science teacher Lainey Bryde each year leads the mini-unit the week before winter break to teach the science behind the fluffy, icy and intricately designed precipitation. Sixth grade science covers phenomena such as snow, a natural phenomenon, she said.

The chemistry, math and art lesson included how snow pellets — called graupel — and fluffy aggregate snowflakes come together in the sky. “I learned about how they form and how the graupel snowflakes are heavier and fall quicker than aggregate,” said student Olive Newmair.

Students timed the speed of graupel versus aggregate flakes by dropping paper models from the top of a yardstick and tracking data. 

They also shaped pipe cleaners into ornaments while learning about crystallization by dipping their shapes into Borax and hot water, and after the resulting overnight crystallization, wrapping their finished snowflake ornaments in tissue paper.

“I am going to bring it home and show my family what I have made,” said student Belis Umurarwa.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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