We are in the depths of winter here in North Central Washington. Sometimes it can be hard to motivate kids to get outside and explore the natural world when it’s cold, dark and gray. These winter science experiments help explore the science of winter from the comfort of your home.
Before starting any of these experiments, be sure to lay the building blocks of the scientific process with your family. Talk about the point of the experiment — what’s the major question you’re trying to answer? Discuss what you think will happen. Do the experiment and note what happens. Did it go like you predicted? Why or why not? Research your results to find out why you got the results you did. Share your results with friends and family and encourage them to try the same experiment. Then ask them whether they ended up with the same results.
Watch ice grow into tall towers in this experiment. Fill a few water bottles with filtered water (not tap water). Leave them in a freezer for around 2 hours and 45 minutes — until they are not frozen but there are small flakes of ice in them. Just before you take the bottles out of the freezer, put an ice cube on a plate. Take the bottles out of the freezer very, very gently — if you knock them they may freeze in the bottle, though this is fun to watch as well! Gently tip the bottles over and pour the water in a thin stream onto the ice cube and watch what happens. Why does this happen? Research “supercooling” to find out.
How can animals like seals, whales and penguins live in cold, cold water with ice floating in it? They have blubber — a thick layer of fat that insulates them from the cold.
Experience how this works yourself by making blubber gloves! You’ll need two Ziploc bags, some shortening such as Crisco and a big bowl of ice water.
Fill up one of the plastic bags about two-thirds of the way with a blob of shortening. Put your hand into the other plastic bag and push it into the blob of shortening in the other bag. The point is to create a clean pocket inside of the blubber where you can put your hand without getting messy. Then, dip your hand in the blubber glove into the bowl of ice water (make sure not to dip too deep or water will flow inside the glove). Next, dip your hand in the ice water without the glove if you’re feeling brave. Notice the difference?
Mason Jar Snow Science Experiment
Explore how much water is contained in ice and snow in this experiment. Take three containers that are the same size — mason jars work great because they have measuring lines. Fill one with water. Fill another with ice cubes (not shaved ice because it’s too similar to snow) to the same level as the first. Fill the third with snow to the same level as well. Now, just wait. In a little while, take a look at what is happening. How long are the snow and ice taking to melt? Once they are melted, how much water is left in each jar compared to the jar filled with water? Why do you think that is?
I hope these three experiments help your family explore the science of winter.
If you’re looking for some outdoor winter exploration, be sure to join us on our Family Snowshoe Tours on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. To sign up, visit the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust’s events page at www.cdlandtrust.org/whats-new/events.
Hillary Clark, membership and education coordinator for the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, loves introducing people of all ages to the beauty and wonder of North Central Washington. For more ways to get outside with your children, visit www.cdlandtrust.org/whats-new/events.