January 24, 2016

MacKenzie Masten

Snow Day STEM Activities

Topics: Learning Through Play, STEM



East Coast cities are preparing for Snow Storm Jonas by shutting down schools, closing public transportation, and declaring national states of emergency. While these measures are being taken to keep everyone safe, they also mean that everyone will be stuck indoors. Entertaining a child or two is easy when the option to go outside and play is available, but children and their parents can get stir crazy during a snow storm. Thankfully, there are many options for fun things to do as a family while stuck indoors. We’ve scoured the internet and found some of the best STEM science experiements for kids to keep you and your family entertained during a Snow Storm.

Grow Your Own Ice Tower:


It may not be Elsa’s Ice Palace but your children will love watching their ice towers form right before their eyes.

For this experiment you will need:

  • Ice Cubes
  • Cups
  • Water Bottles

First, place some unopened bottles of water in your freezer and leave them there for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. By then your water should be quite cold but not be quite frozen. Gently take your super icy cold water out of the freezer and handle very gently. Don’t shake, knock, or jar the bottle or your water will turn into ice before you are ready.  Set out a tub of ice (you need to use a container that will allow for plenty of water overflow, so a bigger container might be better than the cup you see here). Then pour a steady stream of water over the ice - as you do, you will see the ice begin to grow. You can do this on one ice cube or a bunch of ice cubes.

How does it work?

As the water cools, it remains unfrozen due to a lack of agitation. Without any sort of agitation, the water cools past the point of freezing and remains there. When the water is poured onto the ice cubes, it creates a source for agitation thus causing the water the freeze on contact.  This leaves you with a delicious edible slush with the consistency of a wet snowball.

What Makes Mittens So Warm?


Snow Days are perfect times for snowball fights or building snowmen families. But before you play outside, ask your children what makes their mittens so warm, it will spark a sense of intrigue that sets up this next STEM experiment perfectly.

For this experiment you will need:

  • A thermometer
  • A mitten

You will need to measure the temperature of the room first. Have your child read the number out loud and write it down. Now place the thermometer into the mitten and once again have your child read the temperature. Lastly, place your child’s hand in the mitten and then place the thermometer into the mitten. Have your child read the temperate once more. Do they notice anything strange? When they begin to look at and analyze the data be prepared for a lot of questions because they will realize that the mittens themselves are not warm.

How does it work?

The body naturally creates heat and the mitten traps that heat to create a warm space.

Indoor Snow Storm:


Bring the snow storm inside without the accompanying cold and wet. 

For this experiment you will need:

  • A jar
  • Baby oil
  • White paint
  • Iridescent glitter
  • Alka Seltzer

Fill your jar ¾ of the way with baby oil. In a bowl mix together hot water and white paint to make the water white. Once mixed, pour the white water into the jar. Have your children sprinkle glitter into the jar and wait until the glitter settles at the bottom. Once settled it is time to create a snow storm! Take a tablet of Alka Seltzer and break it into pieces. Have them drop the pieces into the jar and watch the snow storm start!

How does it work?

The molecules of water do not like to mix with the molecules of oil. Even if you try to shake up the bottle, the oil breaks up into small little drops, but the oil doesn’t mix with the water. The Alka-Seltzer tablet reacts with the water to make tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubbles attach themselves to the blobs of colored water and cause them to float to the surface.

Keeping Warm in the Winter:


Discover what it would feel like to be a Polar Bear swimming in icy water. 

For this experiment you will need:

  • A bowl
  • Ice
  • Rubber gloves
  • Shortening
  • Plastic wrap

To start, place ice cubes and water into the bowl and have your child place their hand in the bowl of freezing water. Count together and see how long they can hold their hand in the ice. (Even if they insist make sure they take their hand out of the ice water after you get to 30).  Next, take a rubber glove and have your child make a fist inside of the glove. Then completely cover your child’s hand with shortening and then wrap the shortened hand in plastic wrap. Have your child place their hand in the icy water once again and ask them what they feel. They should no longer be able to feel the cold water.

How does it work?

You can explain that this is how a Polar Bear, penguin or any other Arctic animal may feel. The shortening acts like the blubber on Arctic animals. Blubber is a thick layer of fat (adipose) tissue. Animals store extra digested food in the form of adipose tissue, which contains molecules called lipids. Adipose tissue has a relatively low thermal conductivity, which means that it does not transfer heat as well as other tissues and materials—such as muscle or skin. That way, it helps to insulate an animal's body.

Whichever activity you and your family choose to do, we hope you all stay safe during this snow storm!