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Science

8 Winter Science Experiments and Activities

8 Min Read
WF1870928 Shaped 2023 Blog Post Winter Science Experiments Hero 2

Once the temperature dips, people and animals alike seek out ways to keep warm. The cold weather is also the perfect time to learn more about the science behind common winter themes. Between the holiday season, winter break, and cozy time spent indoors, you can look for time to teach kids about science and conduct our experiments and activities. These activities put a wintry spin on various science topics—and can be conducted in or away from school.

Activity 1: Explore Cooling, Grade 2

  • Key Standard: Construct an argument with evidence that some changes caused by heating or cooling can be reversed and some cannot.

In many parts of the country, wintertime sees some of the lowest temperatures of the year, which can potentially lead to freezing weather. In this activity, students investigate the phenomenon: some materials change when heat is taken away, while others remain the same. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Ice cube
  • Water
  • A wooden block
  • A flower
  • Access to a freezer

Please feel free to modify the materials list based on what you have on hand. Have students predict what might happen to the items after putting them in the freezer, then let them freeze overnight. The next day, have students discuss whether the changes that happened to each item are reversible or irreversible. To determine the answers to these questions, have students leave all the items out for about a day at room temperature to see what happens. Download the activity below, which includes an explanation of the phenomenon being explored.

Activity 2: Create Animal Tracks, Grades K–3

  • Key Standard: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
  • Key Standard: Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.

There are still quite a few animals out and about, leaving their tracks in the winter snow. Tracks can reveal much about an animal, such as its size, speed, and species. Luckily, students don’t need access to an outdoor winter wonderland to learn more about the stories that animal tracks can tell.

Have students research to learn more about animal tracks. After researching, have students make their own tracks in fake snow. You can share this animal tracks guide with your students, such as this one on almanac.com, or have them research their chosen animal independently. Next, have them make the “fake snow”:

  1. To prepare the “snow,” combine two cups of baking soda with two tablespoons of salt.
  2. Slowly add clear liquid dish soap until you’re able to properly shape the “snow.”

As an alternative, instead of creating fake snow, students can draw or paint animal tracks on a white piece of paper if that’s more convenient. Encourage students to use whatever tools that might help them come as close as possible to the tracks they wish to create. They can make one track or multiple.

Afterward, have students share their tracks and discuss:

  • The animal tracks they chose to create
  • Their creative process
  • Additional facts about the animal (such as the type of animal, habitat, diet, and whether it’s a predator or prey)

Activity 3: Conduct a Scavenger Hunt, Grades K–5

  • Key Standard: Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
  • Key Standard: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

There’s never a wrong time for a scavenger hunt—even if it’s cold outside. Put together a list for students to find. We provided some ideas below; finding these items requires students to layer up and brave the outdoors.

Nature

Animals

Winter Activities

Icicles, pinecones, barren trees, frosted or dead leavesAnimal tracks, birds that didn’t migrate (for example, robins or cardinals that might have stayed put), an animal burrowPlaying a winter sport, such as ice skating, sledding, or ice hockey; cleaning sidewalks (for example, shoveling snow or adding salt); cleaning yards (for example, raking leaves); building snow “people” 

Activity 4: Investigate the Science Behind Winter Sports, Grades 3–8

  • Key Standard: Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.
  • Key Standard: Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.

There are plenty of phenomena in winter sports that students can study. Give students a list of science terminology like the terms below and have them provide examples of how they can be found in winter sports:

AccelerationAir ResistanceAngular Momentum
BalanceForceFriction
GravityMoment of InertiaMotion

Speed


For example, a student might say that acceleration can be found in sledding as the sled travels downhill. Or friction can be found in skiing; it’s found where the bottom of the skis runs against the surface of the snow.

Activity 5: Research Winter Phenomena, Grades 3–8

  • Key Standard: Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.

Some phenomena only occur during winter. These natural events, such as freezing waterfalls, Nor’easters, black ice, and blizzards, can be quite beautiful to see or dangerous to encounter. Have students research a winter weather phenomenon. Then, have them present their findings on a poster. They can include:

  • The name of the phenomenon and a definition
  • A photo or drawing of the phenomenon
  • Where the phenomenon usually occurs
  • Facts about the phenomenon that students find interesting

Activity 6: Study Glaciers, Grade 4–8

  • Key Standard: Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
  • Key Standard: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
  • Key Standard: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.

In some parts of the world, the environment is cold enough to form glaciers, which are large sheets of ice that stay frozen all year long. Have students learn more about glaciers and their movement through an experiment.

What You’ll Need:

  • Ice in a plastic cup
  • Sand, gravel
  • Dirt
  • Water
  • A piece of cardboard
  • A large ball of clay
  • A wooden block

First, students should flatten the clay to cover the cardboard and sprinkle sand on top. Afterward, have them create a slope by placing the wooden block under one end of the cardboard. Have students push the ice (acting as a “glacier”) down the cardboard and write down their observations. Have them repeat the process with the gravel and then the dirt. Download the activity below, which dives deeper into the phenomenon: frozen water can shape Earth’s surface slowly.

Activity 7: Learn More about the Winter Solstice, Grades K–5

  • Key Standard: Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.
  • Key Standard: Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

Inspire students to explore the winter solstice, which occurs annually on December 21 or 22. During this time, the Northern Hemisphere tilts the farthest away from the Sun. Provide a range of options for students to learn more about this occurrence:

  1. Combine writing and science by having students explain the winter solstice through a short story. Alternatively, they can make a multimedia presentation or even a comic strip.
  2. Have students compare the winter solstice to the summer solstice using a Venn diagram.
  3. Longer nights bring forth the chance for extended star gazing! Encourage students to survey the night sky to seek out winter constellations.

Activity 8: Make a Habitat Diorama, Grades K–5

  • Key Standard: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat, some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Students might wonder about animals like polar bears, reindeer, and wolverines that primarily live in the most frigid landscapes. Explain to students what arctic, habitat, and diorama mean. Ask students to research an arctic animal and its natural habitat. Then, have them create a habitat diorama.

What You’ll Need:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Various arts and crafts supplies
  • Natural objects
  • Glue
  • Scissors

After creating the background scenery and adding objects, students can create a figure of their animal to add to the diorama.

Have students present their dioramas to the class, explaining their chosen animal’s natural habitat. Consider coordinating this activity with a science lesson on animal habitats.

Share Your Winter Science Projects

What are some of your favorite activities and experiments that touch on both relevant scientific topics and wintry themes? Share your ideas with us via email at shaped@hmhco.com or reach out on Instagram or Facebook.

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HMH is excited to announce that HMH Into Science Texas and HMH ¡Arriba las Ciencias! Texas have been adopted by the Texas State Board! Learn more about these high-quality science programs or contact your personal HMH account executive today.

HMH Into Science Texas has been adopted by the Texas State Board!