Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Snow Crystal Exploration

Looking at snowflake structures up close can be fun and interesting! All it takes is a hand lens to see beautiful and complex snowflake crystal shapes. Although every snowflake is unique, scientists have grouped crystal shapes into broad groups based on their characteristics. These shapes are evidence of the conditions in which the snowflake formed.

In Snow Crystal Exploration, students use hand lenses to observe and draw real snowflake crystals. Students discuss crystals they’ve found, learn to use a field guide/key to identify snowflake crystal types, look for patterns in snowflake shapes and where they’re found, and try to figure out the conditions in which their snowflakes formed. In an optional discussion, students look at and interpret a diagram that connects snowflake shape and size to temperature and moisture content of the atmosphere. Finally, students reflect on their learning process.

Students will…

• Observe and describe snowflakes they find.

• Use a field guide/key to identify snow crystal shapes and think about snowflake formation.

• Look for patterns in where different types of snowflakes are found.

• Work together in pairs and small groups, discussing their ideas with peers.

• Optional: Discuss and interpret a diagram about snowflake formation and environmental conditions.

Download Full Instructor Guide:
Snow Crystal Exploration