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10 snow and dry ice experiments and activities

This has been one of the snowiest Midwest winters in recent memory. Playing in the snow is great, but the changing weather of winter also gives a great opportunity to learn the science of snow and ice. Bring some snow inside and try these ten fun ideas/experiments.

Dendrite snow crytals grow on bitter cold days. Make your own at home with a pop bottle, string, and dry ice.
S Savra

Learn Snow and ice facts

1. Color Your Snow
Gather colorful supplies like food coloring, dried-out markers, water-color paints, paint brushes, eye droppers or plastic spray bottles filled with colored water. Collect some snow in a tray or pie pans and have the kids to spray, dribble and splash the snow with the food coloring or colored water.

Invite them to make pretty designs and see what happens when colors like red and yellow are combined, or all the primary colors. Another idea is to make colorful snowballs. Pack snow into balls, and paint. Creations can be stored in the freezer afterward.

2. Indoor Snowmen
Collect snow and pack into shapes with cups and spoons. Make mini-snowmen and decorate with small sticks, craft items or bits of food. Place a tray, and keep your snowmen chill in the fridge

3. How Does Salt Melt Snow?
Have you ever wondered how salt melts snow and ice? The secret is in how salt affects the temperature of ice. Gather together some crushed ice, a stopwatch (on a digital watch or smartphone app)a digital thermometer, a spoon, cups and salt, and see how cold it gets. Full instructions here.

4. How Clean is that Snow?
You know to not eat the grey slush by the side of the road, but how clean is the freshly fallen stuff? On the day of a snowfall or after, bring in 3 to 4 cups of snow. Melt it in the microwave or on the stovetop in a pan.

Filter the snow by pouring it through layers of paper towels or coffee filters, and observe the amount of sediment and dirt left behind. For fun, collect snow from different areas to see which snow could be the cleanest.

5. Frozen Bubbles
On a windless, below freezing day (less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit) go outside with bubbles and bubble solution. Blow a bubble, catch it on the bubble wand. In the chilly air, the bubble should soon freeze into a fragile crystalline ball.

Homemade Strong Bubbles Solution: Combine ½ cup of dishwashing liquid (like Dawn or Joy) 2 cups of water, and 2 teaspoons sugar in a bowl. This solution makes strong bubbles that don’t easily break.

6. Rain Gauge to Measure Snow
Meteorologists measure snowfall by the “liquid water equivalent” or what amount the liquid would be if you melted the snow. A good rule of thumb is that every ten inches of snow equals 1 inch of liquid water.

Make a rain gauge to measure the snowfall. An empty pop bottle, pebbles a ruler and marker (to mark the inches) are all you need.

7. Ice Cube Magic
How do ice skaters can glide across the ice? It’s all in the pressure. Place an ice cube over an upside down container, rest the fishing line over, wait five minutes, and see what happens. Weighted fishing line mimics the pressure an ice skater’s blades create when she glides across the ice. The melted layer of water is what allows her to move smoothly. See how to do it here.

8. Growing Snow Crystals in a Bottle
When it’s bitter cold, delicate crystalline forms grow in the snow. You don’t need to wait for a super-cold day to see how they grow. This involves some preparation and finding some dry ice, but is a very cool way to explore how snow crystals grow in very cold weather.

9. The Density of Ice, Water and Snow

Snow, ice and water are all made of H2O, but do they have the same density? There’s a little math involved, but home-schoolers and science-minded families will enjoy this detailed experiment to learn the difference.
Science experiment instructions provided by the University of Chicago.

10. Giant Dry Ice Bubbles
No regular ice or snow involved, but this makes a neat giant dry ice bubble in a bowl. Dry ice bubbling away in soapy water is fascinating, but things get even cooler when you lay a taut cloth strip over a the bowl and pull it away to create a giant, cloudy dry ice bubble. But the coolest part of all is the frothy explosion.

This experiment requires adult supervision, as the extremely cold dry ice should never be touched with bare skin or stored in a covered container. Wear heavy gloves when handling it. Otherwise, dry ice is harmless. Find it at any major grocery store store.

More Winter Experiments at How Stuff Works

Snow Activities at How Stuff Works

Snow Crafts at How Stuff Works

Water and Ice Experiments

Cool Dry Ice Experiments

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