Snowflake Science: How To Collect & Observe Snowflakes Under A Microscope

Snowflakes are both fascinating and beautiful to look at. Collecting some so you can look at them under a microscope is fairly easy to do, and is a great way for kids to learn more about nature. So how can you do it? Read on to find out!

Snowflake Science: How To Collect & Observe Snowflakes Under A Microscope

Collecting The Snowflakes

The first thing you’ll need to do is collect the snowflakes themselves.

This can be a little tricky to do without them melting, but there is a way! To do it, you’ll need some black construction paper or cardboard and either a fine-tipped paintbrush or a toothpick.

The other thing you’ll need of course is snow!

Wait for snow to start falling and, when it does, make sure you put your equipment somewhere cold, like the fridge, freezer, or an unheated garage. If it’s too warm, the snowflakes will melt, which is no good for you.

When your equipment’s ready, go outside and catch some snowflakes as they fall. Make sure to get a few in case some melt or fall off the paper.

If the snow has stopped falling, that’s unlucky but you can still collect some snow from the ground. You can do this by gently touching the side of a snowflake with your paintbrush and lifting it to the paper. Don’t drop them!

Observing The Snowflakes

Whichever way you collect your snowflakes, once you’ve got them, you’re ready to observe them. For this, you’re going to need a microscope and a glass slide.

More than one glass slide would be good, in case you need some spares.

First, make sure that the glass slides are cold. REALLY cold. The best thing to do is leave them in your freezer for a while while you’re out hunting snowflakes.

You don’t want your carefully collected snowflakes to melt, so don’t skip this step! Once you have them cold enough, place a glass slide under the microscope’s lens and make sure it’s firmly held in position.

Now you need to put a snowflake on it. Fluff the paper up so you can easily see an individual flake and when you do, touch it very gently with your paintbrush. Carefully lift it to the slide and set it down there.

You should now be able to use the microscope to see the snowflake in detail.

Something extra-cool you can do here is take a photo of the snowflake under the microscope. To do that, you’ll need a microscope camera. These can be hooked up to computers and take both photos and videos.

They’re especially cool for snowflakes because, as you might know, no two snowflakes are exactly alike in the way they look. If you take photos, you can compare them.

Try asking your kid why they think the snowflakes look so different.

They might also be interested in learning about Wilson Bentley. Bentley was the first person to ever take a photograph of a snowflake using a microscope.

He collected thousands of pictures like this, and it’s thanks to him that people are so aware of how snowflakes look.

Preserving The Snowflakes

This is another cool thing you can do with snowflakes. You’ll need the glass slides and some hairspray. As before, keep these things in a cold place. Spray the glass slide with hairspray and catch some snowflakes on it.

You can use your paintbrush to center the caught snowflakes to make them easier to observe later.

Once you’re ready, leave it in a cold, sheltered area for a few hours. When you return a few hours later, something interesting will have happened.

The hairspray and water in the snowflake will be gone, and what remains will be a kind of impression or imprint of the snowflake.

This can be studied under the microscope too, and it’s interesting to compare it to the actual snowflakes, especially if you were able to take pictures of them.

Final Thoughts

Kids are naturally curious and it’s great to help them pursue that curiosity whenever you can.

Snow is especially great for getting them excited and helping them look at snowflakes through a microscope is sure to create an unforgettable scientific memory for them.

We hope that now you’ve read this guide, you and your kids have a great time comparing snowflakes!

Elena Jones