What can we learn from a snowball?

Children learn from learn from the natural world in endless ways. It is often easy for learning moments to go unseen as the ‘business’ of daily life can keep us from slowing down and noticing the smaller moments that have the potential of turning into something bigger.

On Tuesday, after a fresh snowfall, one student began rolling a tiny snowball. After an hour and half of patience, power and determination, his snowball grew to be almost as big as he is! At that point, he asked for help rolling the snowball because it was too heavy to roll single-handedly.snow 1

After watching the process of creating the massive ball of snow, teachers wondered how we could expand the interest in the giant mass and we asked the student if he thought it would be a good idea to bring the snowball inside so we could watch it. Of course he replied with “Yes!”. We presented another question – how would we get the snowball into the classroom? The children tried to push it but quickly decided it was too heavy to roll such a great distance. Suddenly one student said, “We could pull it in a sled! I can even pull people in a sled!”

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The students dragged the sled through the halls and happily shared the giant snowball with surprised onlookers. They wondered what we were doing and where the snowball was going. It’s not everyday we bring such big piece of outside into the classroom.


Children used ribbon to measure the height and circumference of the snowball, which we named Roly Poly. They decided that we should only look at the snowball because chunks of snow could break off and they wanted to know how long it would take for the entire ball to melt.

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Student: It’s as fat as the whole ribbon.
Student: It could be fatter but it’s too heavy.

How long will it take for the snowball to melt?
Student: It will take until spring.
Student: Two whole days.
Student: How will this snowball melt? I don’t see it melting. It will melt super slow.
Student: It will melt in 40 years and flood the classroom. Everything will float away.
Student: When it is cold it doesn’t melt. When it is warm it melts. It will melt in a few weeks.

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As we predicted, the snowball had shrunk quite a bit by the time we measured it on Wednesday morning. Children began calling the beloved snowball a new student in the class and even described the melting process as “water coming out his body.” We used a permanent marker to record measurements.

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As water levels continued to rise, we used our “EYES ONLY!” sign as guide to help us get an accurate height measurement of the shrinking snowball.

Student: The water is dirty. I see woodchips, dirt and sticks.
Student: We won’t drink that snowball water. It’s too dirty. And he’s our friend!
Student: I see water and it’s almost to the top. Roly Poly keeps getting the water out of his body.

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After the snow had melted completely, we dipped our fingers in the water. One student swished the water in her hand and said, “the water isn’t as cold as the snowball.”

We explored measurement through filling a paper bowl (the kind we use for snack) with water, then pouring the measured water into a large bucket. One student was our ‘recorder’ and she recorded each scoop that her classmates and teachers measured with tally marks on a white board. After 19 scoops had been removed from the original container, she stated, “you can’t even see we took lots of water out. It’s still really full!”

We used the standard classroom paper soup bowl to measure the volume of the water version of Roly Poly. Scribes made one tally marks for each cupful as the cup was filled from the “lake” and placed in a separate container. We measured a total of 41 soup bowls of water.

Student: Can we make snow with this water?

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