Oh, the wonder of Nature at this time of the year.
This workshop is also about toning down the excitement of the commercial aspects of Christmas and bringing things back to basics, the Holly, the Ivy, the Evergreen trees, the fallen leaves on the ground which provides food & shelter for all the insects and bugs which have gone into overwintering mode, and the hedgehog & bats that need to go through true hibernation. It is a reiteration that this is natures quite time, time to regenerate, rest and ready for Spring again.
I am happy to say all the children I visited knew the date, Month, Year, and that we were in the Season of Winter. The start of Spring appears to be a puzzle for most and a confusion for most. Some said we were in the Season of Christmas – I don’t think they are too far from the truth on that one!
If you look at Met Eireann’s website they clearly say Spring starts on March 1 st.
From a very reliable source: Traditionally in Ireland, winter started on Nov. 1st and ended on Jan. 31st. Samhain marked the end of the old year and February (Brigid’s Day) the beginning of spring. Yes, it is confusing if Autumn starts at the beginning of August but that is our belief.
The first big Science Question?
Do they think Nature knows it’s the 1 st February – this caused a lot of debate and discussion, I know I asked a tricky question but I would also reiterate that a tree doesn’t know how to read, count, or read the calendar so these are, either way, a human constraint of nature. Nature knows that the soil is warming, the sun is shining, the daylight hours are longer and living things are waking from their slumber of overwintering or hibernation.
The next part of our workshop we move onto Snowflake Science. If we study the formation (not growing as that would imply a living thing) of a snowflake. We see that it always forms a flat 3D structure, given enough water the shape will be a full Hexagon, given less water it will have more gaps. I like to relate this to a fingerprint – that each child is unique and special like a snowflake, but we all have similar characteristics (in humans we have arms, legs, head); and in snowflakes, they all look the same but are all different. So how do they look the same?
Ask the second big Science Question?
So how do they look the same? What makes them look similar?
Then you will get the list of facts from the children – tell them if they describe what they are seeing they can’t be wrong.
They are white
They are made of ice
They are made from water freezing
The original catalyst forming the centre point or a place to form was a piece of dust or pollen in the atmosphere
Then the snowflake will form the strongest shape in nature a Hexagon. A Hexagon has 6 sides and six corners. The snowflake will not fill the gaps to make a full Hexagon if it has not got the right conditions.
I believe water in addition is responsible for this hexagonal shape explained through chemistry, the shapes are symmetrical, have a centre point, and a line of symmetry.
Interesting that bees and wasps also make this shape.
Supposedly it is a very strong mechanical shape in nature.
Some children would say they are beautifully designed.
Then we watch the snowflake forming under a microscope (a film that has been made by a clever guy – credited on my website his name is Slava Ivanov). We watch some other inspirational video clips, and moving music and do an activity. You can see the link and video here –
It is an emotional lesson and a great one to end the busy term. It also gives a chance for the teachers to take a well-deserved breather from the intensity of the day.