Snow Home Learning Day
Snow Day Learning
I read a comment from a parent this week in a learning at home group which prompted me to write this today. She said she had decided to have a break from home schooling that day as it was too beautiful outside with the snow not to! Then she finished it with the question – What would you do?
I had a really strong reaction to that as a Primary teacher and a mum! I wanted to write back immediately and congratulate her for the correct decision, and yet her choice of words was a problem for me.
I quickly explained in a comment response to her – “Going outside and having fun in the snow is still homeschooling in its best practical hands on form. Loads of opportunities”. So you see, my problem was with the assumption that homeschooling was paused because of going outside in the snow!
Yet, I believe that this parent possibly had one of the best successful home learning experiences out in the snow with her children that day, that she had enjoyed for some time! I’d like to think so anyway, because nothing can replace real life practical learning.
There are things you can do while outside to make the learning even better and perhaps more applicable for your age of child with just a little extra knowledge. There is vast benefit educationally in going outside and having the experience of just playing with the snow. Especially for younger children.
For example – science, understanding the world, language, maths, personal development, social and emotional development – just to name a few! With a little imagination or the correct knowledge there are many more opportunities for learning with just a little ‘set up’ by parents.
Sometimes it can simply happen by using a few well placed questions during the play. Snow days are the perfect opportunity to learn more about the natural world, make observations, and solve problems in a fun way.
Snow learning opportunities . . .
So let’s look at some of these fun learning opportunities our children can benefit from when having a homeschooling snow day (or two)
• How is your snowball throwing? – The natural activity after making a snow ball is to have a ‘snowball fight’. However think outside the box and make a target board instead. It can have points written on it to hit, or holes cut out to get the ball inside to score.
You could simply use spaced out lines marked out on the ground (like short jump style markings) and you score a certain number of points for landing in between the lines.
• How far can you jump – set it up with spaced out lines marked out on the ground as in snowball throwing. Play it like long jump and get points for which two lines your jump lands in between.
• How many footprints – Use feet (making prints in the snow) to accurately measure the perimeter(outside edge) of the garden or measure large objects using different family members footprint sizes.
• How many sticks tall is it? -Measure your snow creation or upright objects using a stick, making a mark at the top of the stick in the snow and then lining the stick up with the mark to continue measuring. How many sticks high is it at the end.
• How big is that snow ball? – Make different sized snowball and try to measure around them using a tape measure or piece of string. Compare the snowballs, or put them in order from smallest to largest.
• How heavy is that snowball? – make different sized snowball and put some plastic on the scales. Notice how similar sized balls might vary slightly in weight. Great weighing practise and reading scales as well as comparison between weights.
Are more compacted snowballs heavier than lighter compacted ones a similar size? (Problem solving, observing, maths, language, comparison).
• How cold is the snow? – use a thermometer to measure the temp. inside a snow ball. This is a good time to teach them to read a thermometer. Bring it indoors and check the temp. Again 15 minutes later, and then 30 mins. later.
Compare and talk about the results, ask them questions to get them to talk about what they did first, next etc.. and what they noticed, found out, the results, the differences etc..
• How dirty is the snow? – Fill a cup snow. Put it in a microwave for 20 seconds. Look at the contents in the cup after microwaving with a microscope, or magnifier to see what is in the snow!
• How long does it take to melt? – Alternatively fill a cup of snow and wait for the cup of snow to melt and measure how long (time) it takes in your heated house.
You could put another cup of snow the same size in the fridge and see how long it that takes to melt. Use the opportunity to talk about time and temperature in your house compared to the fridge.
• Count the snow balls/footprints – There are plenty of counting, addition and subtraction opportunities outside in the snow. Children can do physical addition and subtraction or even sharing and dividing.
Can they make up their own Maths word problems? eg. Mum threw three snowballs, dad threw double that amount. How many did Dad throw? How many did they throw altogether? Two snowballs missed the target! How many of Mum and Dad’s snowballs hit the target?
All of these maths or science related activities have potential to ask lots of Maths problem solving questions – addition, subtraction, finding the difference, comparison questions.
Points can be added, and children can work out ‘how many points did Dad win by’ ‘what if mum had got 3 more points who would win, and how much would they win by?’ for example.
Lots of Maths measurement comparison language can be used ‘which ball is heavier than this one?’, ‘which one is shortest?’ ‘How much longer did it take for the snow to melt’. Older children can also graph results.
• Make snow angels – This works best in fluffy fresh fallen snow. Get suited up and lie down in the snow. Move your arms and feet as if you are doing a jumping jack.
Decorate your angel shape you made in the snow. Old clothes? Paint, food colouring, natural materials? What will you use?
• Make an igloo – Brick shape cuboids can be made and put together to build an igloo for a larger project the whole family can work together on.
• Make and indoor snowman – Fill the bottom of a large deep container with snow. Use a tray with edges or a smaller container/ biscuit tin to build a mini snowman or other snow sculpture on.
Use small twigs and stones to decorate. Don’t forget to take a photo! Take your finished masterpiece outside to live before it melts in the indoor warmth.
• Make 2D shapes and figures – Flatten the snow on a tray and use cake shape cutters or play dough cutters to cut out shapes. Can you arrange them to make a picture or work of Art.
• Make 3D shapes – Make 3 Dimensional shapes in the snow. Which ones are difficult to make? Make them in different sizes and positions e.g. a cylinder on its curved side and a cylinder on its flat circle face.
• Make a snow castle – Use buckets to make rows of snow castles in the same way you make sand castles. Build the rows up and layer castles on top of each other to make up a big snow castle. Use other sand shapes to make snow shapes to decorate your castle.
• Make snow Art – Fill up a spray bottle with water and mix in two or three drops of liquid gel food colouring or paint. Change the spray to narrow for lines or mist to cover wider spaces with colour. They can also use this spray to decorate their angel or igloo or to mark the scores next to the jumping and throwing games earlier.
• Make a snow picture – Build up the snow for 3D relief effects and mark into the snow for the opposite effect. You could add natural materials to your art and possibly colour (see Snow Art above).
• Make a small world in the snow – Use dinosaurs, train track, paw patrol characters, or any other play set, to make a small world in the snow. A sand pit lid is great for this or a tuff tray filled with snow. Alternatively you can simply create it on a picnic table, bench or patio table that lives in the garden.
• Make a snow volcano – This is a snowy version of the volcano trick many children do in science when they are in key stage 2 in the U. Place a small cup or plastic bottle in the middle of a pile of snow and build more snow around it to form a volcano hill like shape.
Do not cover the top of the cup. Add three spoons of baking soda, one spoon of washing up liquid and some food colouring into the cup. Then add vinegar to the cup and stand back to watch the volcano explode.
• Observe a snow flake – catch a few snow flakes as they fall and put them on a piece of black card. Use a microscope or magnifier to look closely at each snow flake. Compare them and count the points on each snowflake.
• Snow melting experiment – Put snow in a jar and mark on the jar where the top of the snow is. Leave the snow to melt and then mark the jar where the water reaches. Notice the difference and talk about it.
• Snow and water experiment – Put snow in one container, and water in another. Put an Alka Seltzer tablet in and each container and watch the reaction. The tablet in water dissolves much quicker because it is warmer. Cold temperatures make the chemical reaction slower.
• Salty snow experiment – Fill up three cups, one with hot water, one with cold water and one with salt. Put the same amount of snow in each cup and watch what happens. Use a timer to measure how long each cup takes to melt the snow and talk about what you notice.
At the end you can explain that workmen add salt to the grit they spread on the roads to prevent ice from making them slippery for cars and pedestrians.
• Find the tracks – Look for animal tracks in the snow and follow them. Can you work out which animal left their prints in the snow?
• Treasure hunt – Set a snowy treasure hunt full of clues you have written to lead them to the next clue and so on until they find the treasure.
• Scavenger Hunt – Encourage your child to collect everything outside that is on the list you give to them. The first one to collect them all wins a prize. e.g. smooth small pebble, feather, brown leaf, green leaf, twig, berry, jagged rock.
• Hide and seek follow the footprints – One person is the ‘seeker’ and the others hide. The ‘seeker’ must follow the footprints to find the players in the fastest time.
• Feed the birds – Push cranberries, raisins, popcorn, and cereal onto wooden skewer stick or string to tie to a tree. Mix seeds with peanut butter and leave it on your bird feeding table as a treat.
• Writing in Snow – Try writing a message in the large areas of snow. Alternatively, flatten out some snow on a tray or baking tray. Add some food colouring if you like (by using a spray bottle mixed with water). Use a finger or a stick to write spelling words into the snow.
• Letter form practise – Make a snow drawing tray as above and practise the correct formation of each alphabet letter, upper and lower case.
• Name writing practise – As above but practise the correct formation on their name. – Sight words or phonemic words – As above but practise the spelling of tricky ‘sight’ words that need to be learnt by sight and shape e.g. the. Practise spelling phonemically spelt words that can be sounded to write correctly e.g. c ow, c r ow n.
• Number form practise – As above but practise the correct number formation. Play a game where one person calls out a double digit (or three digit 125) number and the other player writes it correctly. Then swop over.
• Balloon experiment – Blow up a balloon and tie it up while you are indoors. Put the balloon outside and watch it as it goes down and deflates. Bring that balloon inside and watch what happens.
You can try this again when the temperature is warmer or colder through the day and use a timer to compare how long it takes the balloon to go down at different temperatures. Talk to children about how the gas inside the balloon expands and contracts.
• Sledging fun – Have sledging races, see which slopes are faster and consider why? Can you find ways to make it go even faster? Experiment. Don’t have a sled? Make your own out of a card board box, cover it with duct tape or a black bag over the card tightly taped with duct tape.
• Snow games – Play games like noughts and crosses/tic-tac-toe in the snow. You might want to use criss-crossed sticks and pinecones as game pieces.
Draw hopscotch boards or play ‘hangman’ word guessing games. Just mark the spaces of letters in the work and everyone guesses a letter that might be there. Count the number of misses, when a letter is not guessed, with tally marks in the snow.
• Snow bowling – Freeze a water filled balloon and ten almost full bottles of water the same size(leave some space for air at the top of the bottle). Use a long stretch of land or your driveway as a ten pin bowling alley.
• Snow themed songs and books – There are many book titles about snowy days and winter. You can find snow and winter songs on an internet search.
Some great books : The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Snow by Sam Usher, The Mitten by Jann Brett, No two alike by Keith Baker, The thing about Yetis by Vin Vogel, One Winter’s Day by Christina M. Butler, Winter Sleep: A Hibernation Story by Co-authors Sean Taylor and Alex Morss
• Snow poetry – Write down all of the words they can think of that describe snow. Then have them use the words to write a poem inspired by snow or winter.
The easiest is an ‘acrostic’ poem which uses the first letter of a word on each line to inspire ideas starting with that letter. For example
Snowy days are exciting,
Not feeling the cold at all,
Oh, we are having so much fun,
Will it still be here tomorrow?
• Snowy places – Where in the world? – Find all the places on a globe or a world map where it snows. You can name places and find them on google earth maps on the internet. Also you could go to the weather channel and look at climate maps in different places.
• Snow Adapted animals – Find out about which animals have adapted to live in cold and snowy environments. Find out what features they have to help them and find where they live on the globe.
Snow days are a gift and a perfect ‘facilitator’ of fun learning. These are just a few ideas of the many things you can learn on a Snow Home Learning Day!
Comment below if you give any of these a try and let us know how it went.