In December, right before the Winter Solstice, I winterized the library Nature Center with one of nature’s exquisite cold weather wonders: Snowflakes. Learning about snowflakes, or snow crystals, is a terrific exploration of science, math, and art. It also doesn’t hurt that the craze for the movie Frozen has sparked even more curiosity into these teeny frozen fractals.
So, what’s on this table anyway? There is a sign with general facts about snowflakes and another about symmetry. Even though it looks like snowflakes are symmetrical, no snowflake has ever been found to be perfectly symmetrical. There are two interactive activities. I really liked this snowflake craft idea on Buggy and Buddy, but transformed the concept into an exploration in designing a snowflake using loose parts. Using a tray, a piece of black felt, and a collection of loose parts including pipe cleaners, gems, pom poms, Q-tips, and beads, children are encouraged to construct their own snowflake on the sheet of felt. I thought the temporary nature of loose parts was fitting for the activity. The other activity is a snowflake matching game using pictures of real snowflakes. Six unique pictures of snowflakes have been divided down the middle, and patrons are invited to match each snowflake that has been divided in half with its correct pair. I created this matching game by googling pictures of snowflakes, copying them to a document, sizing the snowflakes so that they were the same size, printing them out, laminating them, and then cutting each snowflake down the middle.
Two books served as the primary inspiration behind the activities and also acted as the Nature Center’s resource materials.The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson is such an awesome introduction to the science behind snowflakes. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian, is a favorite picture book of mine, not to mention a Caldecott winner, and a wonderful insight into the temporary beauty and art of snow crystals. I thought the kids might enjoy seeing actual photographs by Wilson Bentley, so I created the above flipbook featuring his photographs.
My favorite part of this snowflake study. Finding snowflake designs left by kids. To me, they’re as magical as finding the perfect crystal star flake on your mitten. These are a few snowflake designs I’ve come across while at work that I happened to snap pictures of.
I found this combo of matching the snowflakes with the snowflake design pieces this week. There have been two issues with the snowflake design activity. The first being that the pieces are taken on accident and on purpose. The second is that the Nature Center is close to the Bookmaking Station and a craft table, both equipped with glue sticks, and kids have made good on the urge to glue the pieces to the black felt. The felt has since been replaced with construction paper and it happens every so often, but whatever. No biggie. This is understandable, because the idea of loose parts is unfamiliar to most. Other than that, it has been a great addition. One of my coworkers relayed to me just the other day that a couple young patrons said the Nature Center was their favorite part of the library (instant prickly happy feeling). I was worried these activities wouldn’t be enjoyed the same way it had been in the fall, but it’s still going strong.
And of course, we winterized our home Nature Center.
Actually, I set up our this snowflake provocation in our home way before I gave the library’s Nature Center a wintery makeover. L was the one that had an interest in researching snowflakes and sparked the idea of setting up a specific exploration into snowflakes at the library in the first place. My constant source of inspiration.
Back in September, I introduced the Nature Center discovery stations at both my library and home that I’ve been supplying with treasures found from outside to invoke a curiosity for the great outdoors. There has been interest regarding what has been on display since, so I’m writing up a couple posts outlining a few of the highlights. First up, these nifty nature discovery bottles! Tennessee had a long a beautiful fall and towards the end I found a way to preserve and observe pieces of it at home and in the library.
While on a grocery store run I spotted these flavored water beverages and was instantly reminded of a Pinterest find about creating natural artifact globes. The water bottles were fifty cents a pop, so I bought several that the 4-year-old inhaled and I later repurposed into these….
Isn’t it awesome how the globe magnifies the specimen inside? And there really isn’t much to making these discovery bottles. All I did was remove the water bottle label, added natural specimen my daughter and I found, filled the bottle with tap water, and then sealed it. That’s it! For the discovery bottles housed at the library’s Nature Center, I wrapped a long, durable piece of table around the cap. Just in case.
I regularly rotated 3-4 discovery bottles at the library’s Nature Center every other week. Depending on what was inside the bottle and the temperature of the building, the water sometimes grew murky and eventually needed to be changed. I would either change the water out and keep the specimen inside the bottle or change out both the water and add a new item for observation. They were quite the attraction! At home we kept 3 discovery bottles that L and I would change out whenever we felt like it. Sometimes the bottles would be stationed at her little Nature Center indoors or we would keep them outside for experimentation with temperature.
As it grew colder and colder and the world around us because brown and brittle, I reached out to the local arboretum, Reflection Riding Arboretum, to see if they had touch table artifacts they’d be willing to lend the library. They graciously loaned a turtle shell, snake skins, wild turkey feathers, and a piece of coal to be on display for a few weeks in November and December along with other circulated found items on display.
Another addition was this pesky, parasitic plant that’s also a well known decoration around this area that encourages lovers to kiss at Christmas. You guessed it… Mistletoe! A coworker shimmied up a tree outside the library and collected a stem for the kids to observe. It was fun to introduce the kids to both the mistletoe and piece of coal during the time of year when popular holiday culture was in full swing. The majority of them didn’t know what either was and it was exciting for them to hold the items in their hands and make the connection.
Onward march into wintertime!
Tomorrow, I’ll post about the Nature Center’s current provocation… The magic of snowflakes.
As an ongoing effort to incorporate various opportunities for creative forms of documentation and self expression for children in the library, I recently added a photography provocation that can be used anytime by kids during regular library visits.
Fun, right? Here’s how it works.
Young library visitors can ask to be the “Official Kid Photographer” for a 1o-minute session, which we keep track of using a browser timer. And really, I only use the time limit if multiple children want to use the camera. The librarian working the desk equips the young photojournalist with an easy-to-use, drop-safe camera, a Press Pass badge to wear, and then the child is off to capture the world around them.
A random selection of photos taken by kids are hung up in our Library Photo Gallery display for all to enjoy. In the near-ish future, a digital picture frame will join this display and stream a slide show of the photos taken. If a child is especially fond of a picture, it is printed out for them to keep. From the start, this photography activity has been quite popular with patrons and is a great tool for visual literacy, practicing hand-eye coordination, and introducing the concept of documentation. It also provides kids with a sense of ownership of their library when they see their photographs proudly displayed.
Do you offer visual literacy activities in the library? If so, please share!
Aren’t these stunning? I learned about this craft from a couple of my coworkers and had to share. The 4-year-old and I made these with the large stash of acorns we’ve been collecting over the fall season. She used them as a form of fairy currency for pretend play. We also turned them into necklaces, and even used a handful as decorations for our holiday tree.
Materials you’ll need:
- Acorns (any variety will work)
- Washable markers
- School glue
Here’s how we made them… (It’s SO easy!)
First, I cleaned a ton of acorns using this method.
Then we colored the inside of the acorn caps with washable markers.
You can even experiment with multiple colors.
Fill the colored cap with school glue.
Put caps in a place where they can dry. I used half-dried-out-playdoh to support the ones that were a bit on the wobbly side.
The acorn caps will look like this after a day of drying.
And they will look like this after a couple days.
And this is what they will look like when they’re finished!
Our acorn caps were completely dry in 3 days.
We turned a few into necklaces by tying the acorn to hemp cord. (The inspiration behind this idea.) We also used yarn and whatever string we had laying around the house and turned them into ornaments. We’ll be keeping this craft in our pocket come next fall!
When I saw this tweet floating around the DC Public Library Twitter feed the night before Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a great project for our Kids’ Room craft station. So that night, during a blimp of down time, I whipped up this document and that was it! Since then, a flurry of yetis have taken over the library! (And yes, “flurry of yetis” is the collective noun for “yeti”.)
If you would like to download a copy for use in your own library or classroom or home or any non-commercial use, click the link below for your own copy of this activity:
Unleash the yetis!!