Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
While the “polar vortex” froze most of the country, here in southern California we were relying on our imaginations and immersing ourselves in snowy stories to feel like it was truly winter. Our first Five in a Row book of 2014 was Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, a picture book of the poem by Robert Frost illustrated by Susan Jeffers. (The most recent edition has updated illustrations, but we have the original version, pictured above.) It’s a lighter unit than most of rows (intended as a review week), so it was the perfect choice to ease our way back into school. We did a few of the lessons from the FIAR (Vol. 1) manual, as well as a number of activities about snowflakes and crystals. We also watched several videos related to snow, including Bill Nye the Science Guy (both Earth’s Seasons and Climates) and Reading Rainbow: Snowy Day Poems
We read two books that went along well with our “snowflake” theme. The first, The Tiny Snowflake by Art Ginolfi was one I came across as I was looking for Christmas book suggestions, but since it had nothing to do with Christ’s birth, I decided to save it for January, and this was the perfect time to pull it out. It’s about a little snowflake who learns that God made all snowflakes unique. We have the board book format, and Arianna has asked for the story repeatedly, so it was fun to be able to include her in our school time. This book also prompted our morning Bible reading. I loved reading through Psalm 139 with Ian every day throughout the week and talking about what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
We also read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (which we will hopefully cover in more depth someday using FIAR Vol. 4). It tells the story of William Bentley, who is famous for his work photographing snowflakes. You can find many of his photographs online, and we enjoyed looking at the variety of the snow crystals. After seeing how amazing real snowflakes are, we decided to make some of our own.
The boys really enjoyed making paper snowflakes. We used coffee filters, which made it easy to get to the fun part. I love that even the simple cuts the Elijah was able to do made beautiful art. They had a lot of fun playing with them and watching them float through the air. Then we hung them on the kids’ bedroom windows for a winter decoration.
Making the snowflakes led to a discussion of how crystals have six sides. I got out my geode collection and let the kids examine the crystals, which fascinated them.
Finally, we made our own “crystal snowflakes” using pipe cleaners and borax solution. I wasn’t very good at following the directions because I wanted to make a whole bunch at one time. So I didn’t measure either the water or the borax; as it dissolved I just kept adding more powder, vaguely recalling something from high school chemistry about making a super-saturated solution.
Evidently that wasn’t quite what we were going for, because our crystals looked like they were on steroids compared to all the pictures I’ve seen from people who’ve done this activity. Luckily it still worked, and the kids were thrilled with how they turned out.
(We also had a lovely crystal garden on the bottom of the pan which broke into pieces as I tried to get it out of the pan, and the kids thought the chunks were wonderful treasures to share with their friends.)
Last but not least, we ate snowflakes made from tortillas. I preheated the oven to 400, warmed up the tortillas in the microwave so they would fold easily, cut the patterns, sprayed both sides with coconut oil and popped them in the oven for 5 minutes. (The kids were all occupied and I wanted to surprise them. They’d had a hard enough time cutting the paper, I didn’t feel it necessary to include them in this step.) Then I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and they were quickly devoured!
All in all it was a great week of playing with snow! Since we live in a place where we never get the real thing, we’ve had to make a special effort to expose our kids to it. In the past we’ve taken a day trip up into the mountains for some snow play. This year it’s been so warm I doubt there’s much up there, so books and movies are the only way we’re going to have any snow fun. If you’re in the same boat and looking for more fun ideas to go along with snowy stories, check out my posts on The Snowy Day, Katy and the Big Snow, and Very Last First Time.