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Make a Snow Gauge

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Snow falls from the sky, and so does rain. Both of them end up as water drops. But how much water comes out of snow? Explore this timely question with your kindergarten scientist, and you’ll give her excellent practice in observation, measurement—and ecological awareness, too. The water supply of many states depends on annual snowpack, and scientists need to know very clearly just how much water they can count on! One caution: this experiment requires that you be in a place where snow falls. If you don’t, perhaps you can cultivate a scientific “pen pal” to discuss results!

What You Need:

  • A snowstorm
  • Wide mouth coffee can
  • One plastic 12” ruler
  • Clear plastic packing tape

What You Do:

  1. On a winter’s day, when you’re waiting for a snowstorm, pull out a clean, dry coffee can. This will be your “collecting station.”
  2. Now help your kindergarten scientist tape the plastic ruler to the inside edge of the coffee can, so that the bottom of the ruler hits the bottom of the coffee can, and the rest of the ruler climbs up the side.
  3. Have your kindergartener place the coffee can upright in an open area outdoors, where snow is likely to fall unobstructed. (Note: if there are high winds, you may also want to support the can so that it doesn’t blow over).
  4. When the storm is over, help your kindergartener check the frozen results. How high did the snow go?
  5. Now bring the can indoors and let the snow melt. Now how high is the remaining water? (If you want to get fancy, you can even calculate a rough ratio with your kindergartener, since kids do learn fundamental fractions at this level, such as one-half.)
  6. Talk about the two results, snow versus rain. What does this mean for our world? Then show your kindergartener the weather map in your local newspaper. Did your snow gauge match the measurement that the weatherman got? Why might your totals be different?
  7. Do this experiment over and over during the winter months, and keep a chart. It’s good science…and it’s a great opportunity to teach your child about our enduring connection to the land around us.
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.

Updated on Apr 15, 2011
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