SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING OF THE 2014 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES: Science of Snow – Integration Guide (Grades 4 – 12) Print

Objective:

Students synthesize science, technology, engineering design, and math concepts involved in snow formation and apply their understanding to other curricular areas.


Introduction Notes:

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING OF THE 2014 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES

Science of Snow

 

INTEGRATION GUIDE

Middle School Focus / Adaptable for Grades 4–12

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning Information............................................................ 1

About the Video........................................................................................................................... 1

Video Timeline ............................................................................................................................ 2

 

Promote STEM with Video............................................................................. 2

Connect to Science...................................................................................................................... 2

Connect to Technology................................................................................................................ 3

Connect to Engineering Design................................................................................................... 4

Connect to Math.......................................................................................................................... 4

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan........................................................ 5

Integrate Video in Instruction...................................................................................................... 5

            Predict.............................................................................................................................. 5

            Compare and Contrast.................................................................................................... 5

            Homework....................................................................................................................... 5

            As Part of a 5E Lesson Plan.............................................................................................. 6

Connect to … Meteorology.......................................................................................................... 6

Connect to … Climate.................................................................................................................. 6

Connect to … Language Arts........................................................................................................ 7

Use Video as a Writing Prompt................................................................................................... 7

 

Connect Video to Common Core ELA.............................................................. 7

Common Core State Standards for ELA/Literacy........................................................................ 7

Facilitate Inquiry through Media Research................................................................................. 8

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence............................................................................................. 8

Present and Compare Findings.................................................................................................... 8

Reflect on Learning..................................................................................................................... 9

Inquiry Assessment...................................................................................................................... 9

 

 

 

Background and Planning

 

About the Video

Science of Snow discusses the formation of snow, its modification after accumulating on the ground, and how these affect conditions for winter sports. Featured are Sarah Konrad, a

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glaciologist at the University of Wyoming and a 2006 Olympian in the biathlon and cross-country skiing, and Cort Anastasio, a chemistry professor at the University of California-Davis. They describe the role of supercooled (below freezing, but not frozen) water droplets and tiny particles, such as dust or smoke, in snow formation. Also included is how organizers of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi have been concerned that snowfall may be less than ideal for the games, so they stored large amounts of snow from the previous winter season.

 

Video Timeline

0:00     0:14     Series opening

0:15     0:35     Why snow conditions are important

0:36     1:04     Introduction to the science of snow

1:05     1:20     Introducing Konrad

1:21     1:43     Defining snow

1:44     2:16     Explaining the importance of a nucleating particle

2:17     2:43     Demonstrating the freezing process

2:44     2:59     Explaining dendrites

3:00     3:44     Introducing Anastasio, who continues explaining snowflake categories

3:45     4:15     Describing why snow conditions are important

4:16     4:28     Summary

4:29     4:41     Closing credits           

 

Language Support: To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste the text into a document for student reference.

 

 

 

Promote STEM with Video

 

Connect to Science

Science concepts described in the Science of Snow include supercooling and freezing of water. Students may be surprised to learn that water can remain liquid when it is “supposed” to be frozen. Related, but not mentioned in the video, is the ability for water vapor to change directly into solid, skipping the liquid phase. In fact, this is an important part of the snow formation process, as ice crystals form directly from vapor in the presence of evaporating supercooled water droplets. Also, friction is implied as an important concept as different types of snow surfaces present different amounts of resistance to motion (such as skiing). Density is also involved, as snow compaction and partial melting increase its density and change other properties.

 

Related Science Concepts

         phase (state of matter)

         phase diagrams

         temperature

         melting

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         freezing

         sublimation

         deposition

         precipitation

         Bergeron process

         crystallization

 

Take Action with Students

         Have students research how snow is formed. They will find that it is a more complex process than the video had time to describe. An aspect not mentioned is the Bergeron process, in which water vapor is deposited directly from vapor form into ice crystals, accelerating their growth.

         Accumulated snow on the ground can have a huge range of densities, ranging from about four to thirty times less dense than water. Have students research snow depth to liquid water equivalent ratios. If you happen to have snow on the ground, students could take core samples of the snow using cylindrical containers and then melt it down to find the depth of the resulting water and the depth to liquid ratio.

         Have students produce supercooled water and witness its flash freezing. This can be done using distilled water (available by the gallon in grocery stores, but do NOT get mineral or spring water, as these likely cannot be supercooled significantly). Obtain a clean, unscratched test tube (or a hard plastic breath mint container), two glass laboratory thermometers (at least one of them not scratched), cork or rubber stoppers that will accept the thermometers, foam cups, ice, and salt. Crush the ice into pieces perhaps a centimeter across and put several centimeters of this into the cup. Then add salt until the slurry has a temperature lower than 10°C (14°F). This can be checked with a thermometer (scratched or not). Carefully insert the unscratched thermometer through the stopper, pour distilled water into the clean test tube until it is about 2/3 full, and then carefully insert the stopper and thermometer into the test tube, allowing the thermometer bulb to extend most, but not all the way to the bottom of the tube. Do not let the bulb touch the test tube. Put the test tube vertically into the ice/salt slurry, so that the water inside is visible, perhaps a centimeter above the slurry. Put the cup in a quiet place, free from large vibrations, and observe the falling temperature, which should fall to about 5°C (23°F) while remaining liquid. Just after that, the water should almost instantly (in about a second) freeze completely, accompanied by a sudden rise of the temperature to 0°C (32°F), as the latent heat of freezing is released. This can be repeated many times if complete melting of the ice is allowed. Students might try it again, but allowing some ice to remain. This ice serves as a site for crystallization, so the water should now fail to supercool. Students could also try repeating the experiment, allowing water to drop to a slightly higher temperature (perhaps 4°C) and then shaking the tube or adding particles of various sorts to see if they will induce freezing. They could also try different kinds of water, with various impurities, to see how much they might be supercooled. Encourage students to graph their results to show how the curves might differ.

 

Connect to Technology

Winter sports venues—Olympic or otherwise—are largely at the mercy of the weather.

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However, artificial “snow” has become a very important part of this industry. Technology has allowed the development of snow-making machines that can easily keep slopes open even in the absence of natural snow. However, conditions have to be right for their use. Perhaps surprisingly, it is possible to produce snow with temperatures a bit above freezing, as long as the “wet bulb” temperature is below freezing. The snow made by machines has a different character from most natural snow, being denser and more durable (slower to melt for a given depth).

 

Take Action with Students

         Have students research snow-making machines and describe how this process differs from that of naturally occurring snow. Students might take this further by researching how technology is used to control the operation of snow-making facilities.

         Interested students might research sodium polyacrylate, a super-absorbent polymer used in television and cinema as fake snow that, when water is added, poofs into fluffy snow.

 

Connect to Engineering

The engineering design process uses human ingenuity to draw from science, math, and technology to solve a problem. In this case, two problems are the storage of snow and the prevention of avalanches.

 

Take Action with Students

         Have students work in groups to discuss some of the challenges involved in designing a method for storing snow, as organizers in Sochi have done. Issues may include location and shape of the snow piles, and methods of insulating them against both radiant and ambient heat. Students might first think of their own ideas and then do research to see what is actually being done in Sochi.

         Snowy slopes are often prone to avalanches. There are many methods that have been developed for either preventing avalanches or for producing controlled ones to avoid unpredicted and worse ones later. Have students work in groups to discuss what actions might be successful in avalanche prevention and control, and then have them research actual methods to compare with their own ideas.

 

Connect to Math

Snowflakes have fascinating structures, including rods, prisms, hexagonal plates, and flakes with six-sided symmetry. All of these shapes have their roots in the natural shape of water molecules that—due to how oxygen and hydrogen atoms bond—have the two hydrogen atoms fitting into the corners of an imaginary tetrahedron, with the oxygen atom in the center of this tetrahedron. While the atoms are all in the same plane to form planar molecules, the molecules can then join to one another to make hexagonal prisms.

 

Take Action with Students

         A simple way to introduce mathematics concepts is to cut paper snowflakes and discuss how the symmetry of folding relates to the 6-fold symmetry of a snowflake. This link can provide additional ideas: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-6-Pointed-Paper-Snowflakes/

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         Show the portion of the video, 2:35 to 3:22, that discusses the shapes of snowflakes. Have students work in groups to find definitions for hexagon and tetrahedron. Students might construct hexagons using Archimedes’ method and then measure the interior angles (120 degrees) using a protractor. They might also construct tetrahedrons using cardboard, scissors, and tape. Then, using small foam balls and toothpicks or molecular model kits, they might construct a figure with four equal-length “legs” that fit into the corners of the tetrahedron, and then measure the angle (about 109 degrees) between any two adjacent legs.

         Students might make a model of a water molecule, by using a foam ball (representing the oxygen atom) with two protruding toothpicks separated by 109 degrees (in water, the angle is actually about 104.5 degrees), and other foam balls on the outer ends of the toothpicks to represent the hydrogen atoms. Students might work in groups to make a large number of these and then—perhaps with other toothpicks or pipe cleaners to represent “hydrogen bonds”—try to construct a hexagonal prism representing an ice crystal. For reference, students might look at images found by searching “ice one-h crystal lattice” on the Internet. High school students might research why the bond angle in water is 104.5 degrees rather than the expected angle of 109 degrees.

          Students might do an Internet search for information on the occurrence of tetrahedrons and hexagons in nature. For example, hexagons appear not only in snowflakes, but in honey combs and storms near the poles of Saturn. Ask students to make claims backed with evidence as to why these should occur in nature.

         Students might do an Internet search on fractals, and then make a presentation to the class about what a fractal is and what is special about it. They might show pictures of the bizarre Mandelbrot set or the Koch snowflake. Although the Koch snowflake is not exactly a true snowflake shape, it looks very much like one. Similarly, fractals can be used to generate realistic-looking mountain and cloud imagery. Students might find and show examples of such computer-generated imagery.

         Students might do research to learn about the five regular polyhedral (or Platonic) solids, which were known to the ancient Greeks, and of which the tetrahedron is the simplest example.

 

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

As Part of the Day

         Predict Pause the video at about 2:49, where it shows a graph of snow crystal geometry at different temperature and humidity (or degrees of saturation) conditions. Have students study the graph, and do further research on the Internet. Ask them to predict changes in the type of snow as the temperature is lowered with degree of saturation held constant, and as humidity is raised, with temperature held constant (for different constant temperatures). As an extension, have students research the temperature lapse rate and use a typical cloud height above the ground to predict surface conditions that might yield the heaviest snow.

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         Compare and Contrast Have students research the properties of man-made versus natural snow and then compare and contrast them regarding desirable properties for winter sports.

         Homework If there happens to be snow on the ground, have students take core samples of it using a plastic graduated cylinder, a metal can, or some other cylindrical and sufficiently deep container.  Have students note the depth or volume of unmelted snow, repeat the measurement after completely melting it, and then divide these results to get the ratio of the snow depth to that of the resulting water. Students might repeat this process a few times on different samples and then average the results. They also might document the process with a series of photographs or short video segments. Upon return to class, students could share their results and then compute a class average. Finally, they might do research to find typical values of this ratio for wet and dry snow cover, and compare their results to this to arrive at a description of the snow.

         Homework Have students choose a distant city in a northern clime and do research to find data for snow cover for their chosen site. This might include annual totals and average depth during different months. Then students should make claims supported by evidence for why the site gets the amount of snow that it does.

 

As Part of a 5E Lesson Plan

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

         Engage Ask students about any experiences they have had with snow or other winter precipitation—skiing, shoveling, making snowballs or snowmen, etc. Have them describe how the properties of different kinds of snow affect their success in any of these areas. Also ask them what kinds of weather conditions (such as near freezing or far below freezing) accompanied the snow they saw.

         Explore Ask students to research or recall various winter storms, featuring different kinds of precipitation (snow, sleet, freezing rain, etc.). Ask them what kinds of damage or inconvenience were caused by these storms, and why the particular forms of the precipitation had these specific effects.

         Elaborate Have students do research to learn about other super physical states besides supercooled, such as superheated, supersaturated, etc. Different groups could choose different super topics and present their findings to the class, including examples of the phenomenon’s occurrence, naturally or artificially.

 

Connect to … Meteorology

Types of Precipitation Not only does snow come in a variety of forms, but many different types of winter (frozen or freezing) precipitation exist. The class might divide up into several groups, each of which chooses a certain type of winter precipitation to research. This research might result in not only a description of the precipitation, but also information about the processes that lead to it and in what regions the precipitation type is common. Examples include snow, corn snow, graupel, hail, sleet, and freezing rain.

            Students might also explore why moisture in the air sometimes falls to the ground as rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, or hail. What meteorological conditions cause these different types of precipitation?

 

 

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Connect to … Climate

Snow/Ice Albedo Feedback Snowfall is an aspect of climate, but it in turn also affects climate considerably in the long term. For example, slightly cooler springs and summers, resulting from various factors (such as Earth’s changing orbital and axial tilt properties), can cause snow cover to linger perhaps a day later in spring every decade. The white snow then reflects sunlight back into space, causing further cooling, which accelerates the process. Within a few thousand years, ice caps thousands of meters deep can form and advance many hundreds of kilometers toward the equator, resulting in a glacial period, such as Earth endured as recently as 15,000 years ago. Have students research the role of ice and snow in controlling Earth’s climate. Ask them to discuss the difference between positive and negative feedback, and explain which type snow and ice generally produce. Finally, have them explain the role this effect would play if the Earth were to warm (due to human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions, or natural factors), and how different parts of the world would be impacted.

 

Connect to … Language Arts

         Words for snow There is an interesting and widespread claim that there are 50 (or more) Eskimo words for snow. The history of this claim, the degree to which it is true, and sense in which it might be true is quite a story in itself. Groups of students might investigate both the truth and the history of this claim, and why it may sound plausible in the case of the Inuit (“Eskimo”). Other groups might investigate a similar claim that the Sami (of northern Finland and neighboring areas) have 200 (or 300) words for snow. Potentially, students might even investigate the supposed origins of these groups of people and their languages. Students might also research if languages have no words for snow and why that might be the case.

         Words for other types of winter precipitation Even English has many words for snow and other forms of frozen or freezing precipitation. Furthermore, different English-speaking countries may have different meanings for the same word, such as sleet, which has a rather different meaning in most of the United States (and part of Canada) than it does in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. There are other words, too, such as graupel, corn snow, and hail, whose meanings might vary with the region. Students might research the etymology of these terms and perhaps hold a debate about what the proper meaning of sleet should be.

 

 

Use Video as a Writing Prompt

If using Science of Snow during the winter months in the United States, have students go to http://www.weather.gov/ and look at the map for areas with winter storm warnings. Clicking on the map will bring up the local National Weather Service forecast office web page for that area. On the left, under Forecasts, there is generally a Forecast Discussion. Though these may include some technical jargon or abbreviations, they also often discuss the conditions producing frozen or freezing precipitation in a way that relates to what students will have seen in the video. Have students choose an area and read its forecast discussion carefully. Then, have them re-write the content of it in more accessible language. This is not only instructive regarding the contents of the video, but also exposes students to technical writing and provides an opportunity to learn to interpret such language.

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Connect Video to Common Core ELA

Encourage inquiry via media research. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion.

 

Common Core State Standards Connections: ELA/Literacy –

RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions

WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

WHST.6-8.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

 

Facilitate Inquiry through Media Research

Show Science of Snow and encourage students to jot down notes while they watch. Elicit questions from group members and help them determine which are best explored using print media and online resources. Then, students should brainstorm to form a list of key words and phrases they could use in Internet search engines that might result in resources that will help them answer the question. Review how to safely browse the Web, how to evaluate information on the Internet for accuracy, and how to correctly cite the information found. Suggest students make note of any interesting tangents they find in their research effort for future inquiry. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Words and phrases associated with our question are….

         The reliability of our sources was established by….

         The science and math concepts that underpin a possible solution are….

         Our research might feed into an engineering design solution such as….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Related Internet Resources

         Weather WizKids: http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-winter-storms.htm

         Photos and information: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/photos/photos.htm

         Webquest pdf with good graphics: http://sciencespot.net/Media/SnowflakeWebquest.pdf

         NOAA: http://www.noaa.gov/features/02_monitoring/snowflakes.html

         Explanation of snowflake shapes and how temperature affects formation: http://dsc.discovery.com/video-topics/other/snow.htm

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their media research, ensure they record their sources and findings. Students should analyze their observations in order to state one or more claims. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… I claim… because….

 

Present and Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare findings with others. Students might do a Gallery Walk through the presentations and write peer reviews as would be done on published science and engineering findings. Students might also make comparisons with material they find on the

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Internet, the information presented in the video, or an expert they chose to interview. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as:

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         I claim that my ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

 

Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question or problem

Question or problem had had a yes/no answer or too simple of a solution, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question or problem was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question or problem was clearly stated, was researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

References cited

Group incorrectly cited all of the references used in the study.

Group correctly cited some of the references used in the study.

Group correctly cited all of the references used in the study.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no evidence to support it.

Claim was marginally supported by the group’s research evidence.

Claim was well supported by the group’s research evidence.

Presentations

Groups neither effectively nor cooperatively presented findings to support their stance.

Groups effectively or cooperatively presented findings to support their stance.

Groups effectively and cooperatively presented findings to support their stance.

Findings comparison

Only a few members of the group constructively argued their stance.

Most members of the group constructively argued their stance.

All members of the group constructively argued their stance.

Reflection

None of the reflections were related to the initial questions.

Some reflections were related to the initial questions.

All reflections were related to the initial questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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