Thursday, January 25, 2018

Snowflake Bentley

Yesterday, we finished rowing (Five in a Row, Volume 4) Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (illustrated by Mary Azarian).  It is the story of the life of Wilson Bentley, the first man to photograph snowflakes to share their beauty with the world.  Since it snowed here in Georgia last week (a rarity), it was the perfect time to delve into this book study!
Wilson Bentley grew up in Vermont.  To learn a bit more about Vermont, we read about it in The United States of America: A State-by-State Guide by Millie Miller & Cyndi Nelson.  (We love this book for learning more about each state.  The illustrations are colorful and beautiful.)
We then watched a video showing a quick tour of Vermont by FreeSchool on YouTube at, below.
Or course, our story disc for this book went over the state of Vermont.
We then talked a bit more about Bentley (he, too, was homeschooled), before watching a short documentary on him on YouTube, called, "The Snowflake Man," at, below.
As you can see from the cover of Snowflake Bentley, it received the Caldecott Medal for its impressive artwork.  We read more about this honor given to Mary Azarian, the illustrator, on page 67 of Evan-Moor's Literature Pockets: Caldecott Winners (Grades 4-6).  She made the artwork for our story using woodblock prints.  
Page 69 of this same Evan-Moor book gave us instructions on how to make our own "Block Print" out of a piece of floral foam.  Here, Mags is carving her block.
She chose to carve a snowflake, of course!  😉
Once carved, we painted an even coat of white paint over her block ...
... and stamped it onto darker pieces of cardstock.  We had our own block prints!
We loved them!  We made several and placed them all around our house to add to our winter decorations.
We then talked about Bentley's amazing photography.  You can see some of his snowflake photographs on the YouTube video at, below.
For some more fun reading about snowflakes, we read Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan (illustrated by Steven Kellogg).  (I just love Steven Kellogg!  He illustrated a lot of the books I loved growing up, like The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash.)
It was time for some more snowflake crafts.  Using the awesome templates at, we cut some of our own from white paper.
Then we made art using Dover's Shiny Snowflakes Stickers book ...
... as well as their Fun with Snowflakes Stencils book.
Mags loves stencils!  And I love them because they can be saved and used again later!

We then made rubbings using these snowflake rubbing plates I had bought ages ago from Oriental Trading.  Unfortunately, they no longer sell them, but they do have them on Amazon at  She enjoyed using these, too.
Next, we took the opportunity with this book study to learn more about hexagons and symmetry, using Usborne's Illustrated Elementary Math Dictionary ... 
... and Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy.
It was time to channel our inner "Snowflake Bentley."  Using our Usborne The World of the Microscope book as a guide, we read about crystals (pages 34-35) and set out to investigate some of our own.
To form our crystals, we used honey, salt, and sugar, which each feature different crystal shapes.  Here, Mags is mixing sugar in warm water.
  Once dissolved, we placed drops of our solutions onto microscope slides to dry.  Each solution helps each substance to recrystallize, giving the crystals straighter edges and sharper corners.  This would make our crystals easier to see.  (It helped to put our slides under a warm lamp to dry.)
We had, from left to right, honey, salt, and sugar.
 The slide below shows the crystals left behind on one of our slides.  Neat!
 Under the microscope, we could see those crystal shapes very clearly.
The next day, we woke to find ... SNOW!  In Georgia!  How perfect!  A Godwink, for sure!  Here is the picture of our snow outside our front door!
Being Georgians, we don't own a proper sled, but a laundry basket works just fine!  Mags was so excited!
 Here she is, palling around with Daddy!
Of course, with this rare opportunity, the microscope came back out after we scooped some snow into a bowl.  This was truly like Wilson Bentley!  And we struggled, too, to see the crystals before they melted under the light of the microscope.  This was so perfect after learning about what Bentley endured to capture his famous microphotographs.  What a treat during this row!
We read more about snowy weather in Usborne's Starting Point Science (Volume 1).  In it, we learned that people have observed snowflakes as large as dinner plates!  Whoa!
 We then read The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Snow ... 
... an article about how snowflakes are formed in this November/December 2013 issue of Ladybug magazine ...
... and Snow Science by Canopy Books.  (This book is actually part of an activity kit that I had purchased a while ago from Scholastic Book Clubs.)
Using the materials that came with the kit, we were able to grow crystals on this paper snowflake ...
... (all set up and waiting) ...
... and make our own fake snow!
Mags decided to wrap the "snow" around her paper flake while we waited for its crystals to grow.
After a couple of hours, we had crystals!  
We decided it would be the perfect time to get out our Snoopy Sno-cone Machine and make a snowy treat!
Mags chose to go with a grape-flavored sno-cone!
Yum!  It was so good!
We were having a blast!
The next day, we celebrated the end to another great row with snowflake cookies!
Thank you, Wilson Bentley, for all of your work in bringing the beauty and wonder of snowflakes to the rest of us!
I skipped one!  We also finished Angelo by David Macaulay (also from Volume 4) a while ago and I have not yet blogged about it.  I hope to get it up tomorrow!  See you soon!