Watching snow fall is an easy way to get a brain break

March 11, 2005|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

Perhaps it is the kid in me, but I never tire of watching snowflakes cascade from the sky. There's something very calming about a flurry of white powder covering the landscape - especially if your view is through a window.

At the first sign of a snowflake, I tie back the curtains and pull up the blinds.

In my fifth-grade classroom, I allow the students to gaze out the window briefly to get the temptation out of their system. The moment of rare silence is truly heavenly. I consider it to be the equivalent of a trip to the office coffeepot. We all need a brain break.

Then we go on with the planned lesson, a little more sedate than we were before.

Weather is so amazing and yet so baffling. Meteorologists attempt to predict what's going to happen. School administrations try to keep everyone safe by following those predictions.


At times, parents wonder why school is canceled or why it isn't canceled. Our kids just hear two words, "Snow Day." Their only question is, "Where are my boots, Mom?"

We haven't had much snow this winter, but mid-March has been known to pack a punch.

Yes, I'm writing about snow, but please don't blame me if it snows this weekend - or if it doesn't snow until next winter. Remember, I'm just a lowly columnist. My only predictions occur as I step out the door each morning and gaze up. Seeing - where snow is involved, feel free to add smelling, touching, hearing and tasting, as well - is believing.

(Truth is, I'm wishing for just a few more flakes this winter.)

So ... as you're catching the last of this season's snowflakes on your tongue, here are some facts about snow you might want to share with the children in your life:

· Temperatures hovering around 32 degrees create the best conditions for a snowfall. The air in temperatures well below freezing cannot hold enough moisture to produce snow. As a result, it snows more often in the northern United States than at the North Pole.

· Snowflakes form when water vapor freezes on tiny pieces of dust and salt, creating ice crystals.

· Snowflakes have six sides and form many shapes. The most common flakes are shaped like stars with branching arms. These are called dendrites. There also are platelike flakes shaped like a stop sign and column flakes, which are shaped like pencils.

· The quiet of a snowfall is not just a figment of your imagination. Air pockets get trapped between snowflakes as they fall to the ground. The air pockets act as sound absorbers.

· Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, a Vermont farmer, is known for his study of snowflakes. To photograph the flakes, he would catch them on velvet and smooth them with a feather.

· Want to catch a snowflake? Try this suggestion from the Kids Discover magazine, "Rain & Snow," December 2002 issue: Place a piece of black construction paper or black cardboard in a freezer. When the paper is cold, take it outside and catch some snowflakes on it. Examine the flakes under a magnifying glass. See if you can see six sides.

For more information about snow and other weather-related topics, check out these books available at Washington County Free Library:

· "Wet Weather: Rain Showers and Snowfall" by Jonathan D. Kahl

· "DK Guide to Weather: A Photographic Journey Through the Skies" by Michael Allaby

· "The Weather" by John Lynch

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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