Has it snowed at your home yet? If you live in the northern United States or in Canada, it probably has. The next time you’re out in the snow, take two things with you: a piece of black construction paper and a magnifying glass. Let snowflakes land on the black paper. Then look at them with the magnifying glass. What you see will amaze you!
Snowflakes can look like flowers, like stars, like tubes, or like dinner plates. They can be made from two ice crystals or 200 ice crystals. No one has ever seen two snowflakes that look exactly alike (though you might have to use a microscope to see the differences sometimes).
I think snowflakes are God’s way of reminding us that he loves every tiny bit of his creation. Why else would God make such wonderful little sculptures? Each one is different, and each one is beautiful. Only a God who cares about his world would spend that much time on snow!
Make a Flake
Every snowflake is different. You might think God would get tired of thinking up new snowflake designs. But once you try this activity on your computer, you’ll know how much fun it is! Just follow these easy steps:
- Ask an adult to help you log on to http://snowflakes.lookandfeel.com/.
- Click on “Make Your Own Snowflake.”
- Watch while the computer folds a piece of paper for you.
- Place your cursor on any edge of the piece of paper.
- Every time you click the mouse, the scissors will make a cut. If you make a mistake, just click “undo.”
When you’re done, you can start over or add your creation to the Snowflake Gallery (mine is snowflake #12150921). Here’s a hint: Don’t let your parents try this . . . you might never get another turn!
Snowy Stars and Needles
Snow crystals form in clouds. Water vapor freezes on a little bit of dust, some floating bacteria, or some other small particle. After that happens, the snowflake starts to grow. Most snowflakes have six sides. Snowflakes can take many shapes, but some of the most common are
- hollow columns
- six-pointed stars
- dendrites (star shapes with branches and side-branches)
So what makes some flakes look like needles and some look like stars? It mostly depends on the temperature outdoors. Different shapes form at different temperatures.
How big was the biggest snowflake you’ve ever seen? Maybe an inch (a few centimeters) wide? Well, in Montana in 1887 people said they saw snowflakes that were 15 inches (38 cm) acr oss!
The snowiest U.S. city is Syracuse, New York, which gets an average of 115 inches (292 cm) of snow a year. But the snowiest Canadian city —Gander, Newfoundland—has Syracuse beat. Gander gets an average of 174 inches
(442 cm) of snow each year.
In the winter of 1998-99, 1,140 inches (2,895 cm) of snow fell on Mount Baker in Washington State. That’s 95 feet , or 29 meters—how would you like to shovel that much snow out of your driveway?
The only place in the United States where it has never snowed is the Florida Keys.
Most of the people who live in India, Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America have never seen snow falling where they live. That means that about half the people in the world have never made a snowman or thrown a snowball!
If it snows where you live, you’ve probably made a snowman. You know the drill: Roll three balls and stack them on each other. Stick in a carrot for the nose and wrap a scarf around the snowman’s neck; blah, blah, blah.
But how about something different this winter? How about sculpting a snow dragon, or a snow throne, or a horse you can really sit on?
You’ll need a big pile of snow, so get your whole family or your neighbors in on the action. Pack each layer of snow down tightly before you add more. Smooth it into a shape that’s roughly the same as the thing you want to sculpt. Then use tools like a garden trowel or a sand shovel to carve out your design.
To see some really amazing snow sculptures, visit the website of the Canadian Snow Sculpture Team ( www.snowsculpture.com ). You won’t believe what they can make with snow!
The most famous snowflake expert was Wilson A. Bentley. He was born in 1865 on a farm in Jericho, Vermont. When he was 15 his mother gave him a microscope. Bentley looked at many things under his microscope. But what amazed him the most was snowflakes. He tried to sketch them, but they melted before he could finish. Back in 1880, cameras were very expensive, but Bentley convinced his parents to buy him one. After two years of trying, Bentley finally figured out how to
photograph snowflakes. He spent the rest of his life doing just that, and that’s why people called him “Snowflake Bentley.” He photographed more than 5,000 snowflakes in 50 years.
Read More About It
by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
This picture book tells the story of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who was the first person to photograph a snowflake.
Snowflakes in Photographs
by W.A. Bentley
See Snowflake Bentley’s photographs in this book.
The Snowflake: Winter’s Secret Beauty
by Kenneth Libbrecht
photos by Patricia Rasmussen
This book was written for adults, but kids will love the amazing snowflake photographs.
About the Author
Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.