I thought we'd start the month with an easy activity that needs no more than paper and scissors. I use copy paper but any paper will do as long as you can fold it 4 times without it being too thick; experiment with tissue paper and coffee filters too.
Snowflake Bentley is a biography about Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931.) His mother gave him a microscope at the age of 15 and when he discovered how beautiful snowflakes were up close he invented a way to photograph them. By the end of his life he was considered the world's expert on snowflakes! This article written in 1925 is an interview with him in his home. The writing is lovely and filled with quotes from a man who truly appreciated the small beauties in life. Here is another article written after his death that you will also enjoy. The book was illustrated using woodcuts by Mary Azarian and won the Caldecott Medal in 1999.
"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." - Wilson A. Bentley
You might want to warm up by making some virtual snowflakes. My favorite site is Snow Days because you can cut any shape, not just straight lines, and then you can print it out several ways: one of which is a greeting card! Another site is Make-A-Flake which makes cool scissor cutting sounds when you cut.
Here's how to fold a typical piece of copy paper. The first fold and cut get you to a square, if you are starting with a square then skip this step. Click here for a PDF version to print out.
Step 5: After cutting, open up carefully and press folds open with your fingers. Now marvel at your artistry!
Optional Step 6: An adult can use an iron to press the snowflake really flat and you can spray it lightly with starch to stiffen it and make it easier to hang.
It doesn't take much viewing of snowflake images to become totally fascinated by them. If you want to see more try this site and this site and try this animation too. Bentley also compiled a book of his snowflake pictures called Snow Crystals and Kenneth Libbrecht, who was the photographer for the snowflake images on U.S. holiday stamps last year, has several books out with gorgeous photography. I like The Little Book of Snowflakes the best.
If you're in an area where it snows maybe you'd like to try your hand at identifying different types of snowflakes. Take a dark piece of paper (or use your coat sleeve) and a magnifying glass and when a snowflake lands on you look quickly at the shape and see if you can identify it using this chart.
Enjoy your snowflakes! See you tomorrow!