Grandparents Teach, Too/Having some fun with snow science

The Grandparents Teach, Too writing team.

Winter may be going, going, gone today, but who knows what the next day will bring? Here are some fun snow and ice STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — family activities while the kids are still interested in winter.

Polar Bears

How do polar bears and penguins keep warm in cold areas? Polar bears have extra layers of fat and special dark skin. Penguins have thick skin and lots of fat to keep them warm. They also huddle together. Children can dip one hand in water filled with ice cubes to feel the cold temperature. Have children use their other hand to make a fist inside a plastic glove without using the glove’s fingers. Cover the glove-fist with plastic wrap and a large amount of a greasy substance like Vaseline or shortening. The grease- like blubber should insulate from the cold. Put the gloved hand in the water. Do they feel the difference? You can also stuff the glove with pillow stuffing, wool, or fur.

Show children how to read a thermometer or at least watch the red line move. Cover with plastic wrap and grease, pillow stuffing or other insulation. Make sure the thermometer is back to normal between each trial.

Sticky Ice

Put a piece of ice in a bowl of water. The solid water (ice) will float to the top because it is less dense than the liquid water it displaces. The hydrogen bonds in the solid water (ice) push farther apart. It’s like kids standing far apart with their arms stretched out (ice) rather than close together (liquid water) in the same space. Fewer kids will fit in the same space when their arms are stretched out. This basic concept comes in handy to understand everyday science dealing with ice.

Back to science fun. Give your children a string and have them try to pick up the ice. They will not be able to do this. Then have them lay the string gently across the ice and put salt over the ice cube. Count slowly to 10 and the ice will stick to the string.

Why does this work? When salt is added to the ice cube, the salt lowers the melting point of the ice. The salt is in a thin layer, so it melts a thin layer on top of the ice cube. The water cools down further and refreezes around the string.

Quick Melt

Fill several containers with water and let them freeze overnight. Take them outside and put sidewalk salt on some and not on the others. Ask your children which ones they think will melt first. You can add drops of different food coloring on the top of each. The one with winter salt will melt away into a beautiful art. See or

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.