At-home and at school learning resources from Learning for a Sustainable Future
Fall Week 14: The Molecular Magic of Ice and Snow
This week's LIO is all about the magical transformation that happens to water during this time of the year. As everything around us starts to get colder, so does surface water. Thanks to water's molecular structure and polarity, at around 4 degrees Celsius, water actually starts to become lighter and less dense - which is different from almost every other liquid out there that we know of! At 0°C, it freezes as ice on the tops of water sources as it becomes lighter than all the other water surrounding it. What may seem simple is quite remarkable when we think about all the rivers and lakes that may appear completely frozen on the surface, but are actually insulated enough to make a pretty good habitat for fish and other aquatic life below the ice!

The activities below introduce students to a variety of winter topics surrounding the science behind snow and ice and how the ecosystem around us adapts to the cooling temperatures. Be sure to take a look at our Early December Step Outside Guide as well to read more about The Molecular Magic of Ice and Snow and some of the other happenings during this time of the year!
Grades K-3
Sizing Up Winter introduces time and measurement concepts through interactive problem-solving scenarios while educating students about the natural world. Nature comes alive through the plants, animals, and natural phenomena associated with winter. The author provides a "Nature Notes" section at the end of the book highlighting the animals and habitats featured throughout the text, including the snowy owl, northern cardinals, black-capped chickadees, and river otters.

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This video demonstrates several key adaptations that enable some well-known species to survive in Canada's harsh winter conditions. Attention is paid to how the properties of snow create a comfortable home for many animals during the coldest months of the year. The program effectively reveals this often-unseen ecosystem and the important role subnivean creatures play in the survival of some of Canada's iconic fur-bearing predators.

  • Watch Journey to the Subnivean Zone. As students are watching the video, have them use the graphic organizer to capture animal facts
  • Complete the Snug in the Snow activity with students. After completing the activity, have the students pretend they are one of the characters in their diorama and write about daily life in a subnivean world
  • Get outdoors to play Bearly Any Ice, a predator-prey activity where students learn the impacts that climate change has on animals and ecosystems
  • Enjoy the fresh winter air with this Signs of Winter Scavenger Hunt
  • Take the learning outside with It's Snow Amazing! to learn more about snowflakes' shapes and sizes
  • Create a virtual snowflake and send it to a friend or family member. Write a winter poem to include with your snowflake
  • Try to Make a Snowflake based on images of actual snowflakes
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Grades 5-10
Major snowfalls are generally associated with winter storm systems that move across the country. This exercise aims to demonstrate the relationship between heavy snowfall and the movement of the winter cyclone air masses. Students will analyze the snowfall pattern of a winter storm, track the path of a winter cyclone and determine the relationship between a major storm and corresponding hazardous weather it produces.

  • Learn more about winter storms by completing the Resource Activity and Inquiry Questions suggested in the resource
  • Get outside and play Arctic Survivor and learn more about how polar bears are affected by their habitat changes
  • Learn to make some instant snow while practicing your science investigation skills
  • Make your own Barometer and measure changes in air pressure outside. Try to formulate predictions about the weather based on your measurements
  • Explore your neighbourhood and hunt for Nature's Treasures
  • Research a historically significant and severe storm from your area or another part of the world. How did the storm form? What kind of impact did it have on peoples' lives? What kind of warning systems are available to provide information about the storm in advance?
  • Everything you wanted to know about snow, blizzards can be found in this informative site, All About Snow. Ask students to write their questions about snow, storms or winter and research the information on this site
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Grades 7-12
In this outdoor inquiry, students investigate how snow's depth and composition can determine its insulating effects. After digging a snow pit, the air temperature is measured, and the temperature and composition of the snow are recorded at regular intervals between the surface of the pit and the ground below. Students pool their results to determine patterns and consistencies in the relationships among snow depth, snow composition, snow temperature and the distribution of species.

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About Learning Inside Out

Above you will find a selection of activities, broken down by various grade levels. These guides will be released weekly and archived on our Learning Inside Out page, so you can always access the full catalogue.

All activities have been modified from resources on our R4R database, simplified and adapted for both outdoor learning in the school yard or at-home as needed. The activity descriptions above should contain all the information and links that you need!

If you'd like to view the full original resource on R4R, including curriculum connections for every province/territory, click the activity title.

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Use the feedback button at the bottom of this Guide, or email us at We would also love to see photos of students engaging in the activities, please e-mail us any pictures or videos you have!
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Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) is a Canadian charity with over 25 years of experience working within the education system. Our Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database is an award-winning collection of resources that are peer-reviewed by certified teachers and connected to curriculum in all provinces and territories. R4R is recommended on many Ministry of Education websites.
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