Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Wonder

The snow is falling in Wisconsin!  It's supposed to be a bit of a dumper: 8-12 inches.  The low temperatures are keeping the white stuff light and fluffy.

It's so pretty.

I have a greater appreciation for the beauty of snowflakes since I was the science lab lady at the elementary school.  A few years ago we did a project around a man who loved to photograph snowflakes.  We bought several copies of the book about him called, "Snowflake Bentley."

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley was the first person who figured out how to photograph snowflakes way back in 1885.  He dedicated his life to studying snowflakes.  He said, "Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind." 

His photographs were incredible.

He took thousands of photographs of snowflakes and no two were ever the same.   There's a whole  website about Snowflake Bentley where they sell snowflake everything - charms, posters, ornaments - you name it.  For our elementary snow project every teacher got a pre-folded snowflake and was asked to cut it out.  We made a bulletin board of all their beautiful signed snowflakes where the kids loved to stop and see if they could find their teacher's flake.  We learned how to preserve snowflakes with hairspray and looked at them under a microscope.  We also learned a lot of snowflake facts.  For instance, did you know:

The largest snowflakes ever recorded fell in the state of Montana. The snowflakes were alleged to be 15 inches in diameter.

The snow capital of the United States is Stampede Pass in Washington State.  Each year, the average snowfall is 430 inches.

The average snowflake falls at a speed of 3.1 miles per hour and can take up to an hour to get from cloud to earth.

The worlds tallest snowman ever made measured a massive 114 feet tall and was made by the people of Bethel, Maine. It took 2 weeks to build, finally being completed on February 17th, 1999. The snowman, nicknamed Angus was so big that it had tires for a mouth and trees for arms. 

Ever since our elementary snow project I find myself looking at snowflakes in a different way -- up close.  The conditions have to be just right to get those perfect six-sided snowflakes - usually they are just broken bits of snow crystals.  I always look for the Snowflake Bentley flakes during each snowfall and when I spot them it's very exciting.  My kids will tell you that I alert them if I find Bentley type flakes.  If the car is cold, the tinted windows make a good backdrop to see the shape of the snowflakes.  Get a magnifying glass and take a closer look the next time conditions are right for snowflakes.  Enjoy the wonder of it all.

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