Throw, Catch, and Learn about Snowflakes

Snowflakes form when ice crystals freeze around tiny particles of dust in the air, and join together as they fall to earth. Each snowflake is made up of two to two hundred separate ice crystals. Though many are similar, no two are exactly identical. Snowflakes are six-sided because the water molecules they are made up of are six-sided.

The shape of each snowflake is determined by the amount of water vapor in the air, along with the temperature, wind, and amount of time it takes to fall to the ground. There are seven basic forms of ice crystals that make up snowflakes. The capped column and column crystals are six-sided prisms that form in the highest clouds, at temperatures of -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Needle crystals form from 23 degrees to 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Spatial dendrite and stellar crystals are star-shaped crystals that form in temperatures between three degrees to ten degrees Fahrenheit. Plate crystals are flat, six-sided crystals that appear first in ten degrees Fahrenheit to eighteen degrees Fahrenheit, then reappear in 27 degrees Fahrenheit to 32 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Irregular crystals are ice crystals that can’t be classified in one of the previous categories, and form at various temperatures. Besides being classified by type of ice crystal, there are many subgroups of snowflakes.

Different Types of Snow Crystals:

Snow Crystal Primer: Descriptions and photos of all the known shapes of snow crystals.

Snow Crystal Images: Original images by Wilson Bentley-The Snowflake Man.

USA Today Article: How temperature and humidity shape snow crystals.

All About Snow: National Ice and Snow Data Center’s resource page on snow.

How Snowflakes Form: Diagram of the process a snowflake goes through to form.


Catch and Keep a Snowflake:

Catch Snowflakes and Preserve Them: How to catch several snowflakes and preserve them forever.

Save a Snowflake: Catch and preserve a snowflake in warm superglue.

Fun Snow Activities:

Make-a-Flake: Cut virtual snowflakes.

Snow Flake Designer: Learn to design and cut six-sided snowflakes similar to those found in nature.

Snowflake Fractal Lesson: Observe patterns in nature, and learn how to complete a snowflake fractal.

3-D Paper Snowflakes Downloadable PDF on how to make 3-D paper snowflakes.