It rains in the Sacramento Valley. Up in the mountains, it snows. Somewhere along the way, the rain starts getting thick, and then it's snow.
How does this happen? What is snow anyway? Winter weather provides an amazing opportunity for children in the elementary grades to launch into science lessons. Not the abstract type, but real, concrete, observable science.
The first thing teachers need to do is to pay attention to the weather. Listen to the weather forecasts, especially the long range ones provided by NOAA. Plan ahead.
When the clouds start rolling in, it's time to shift into science mode. Children are by nature very curious. They love to learn, and being a "scientist" is actually rather cool to them. It's more than a little bit of fun for them to let everyone in the family know how things happen.
Tailor the lesson to fit the grade level. Rather than simply provide all the answers, ask a ton of questions. Go outside to experience the weather. A quick trip outside in a light rain, or a longer stay if it is snowing, will produce giggles, squeals, and smiles all around. Nobody is going to melt.
The experience of being outside and looking up at falling rain or snow is far better than simply watching it through a window. It's wet, it's cold, it's fun, take on a very real meaning.
From there, the questions begin. What is that stuff? How did it get there? Where did it come from? How do you measure it? Is snow just frozen rain? What is hail? How come rain is wet? How come so much in winter?
Record all the answers so everyone can see them. Go through them, compare them to what defines rain, snow, hail, and weather in scientific terms. Guide the children through this, let them come up with answers and encourage debate and discussion.
Read about rain, snow, winter. There are many stories written for children about weather. Follow up with painting or drawing. In classes where children are writing, follow up with a short written story, accompanied by a drawing or painting. Keep a graph or chart of the weather for a month.
It's entirely possible to cover language, art, math and science simply by paying attention to the natural winter world just outside the classroom door. Taking advantage of it is simply good teaching and a lot of fun.