Learn about the states of matter with a snowman project. Then do our DIY snow globe project and enjoy snow all year long while also learning about density!

Snowmen Matters

Learn about the states of matter with a snowman project. See what snow can teach you about water in all its states.

What You Need:

  • Snow accumulation
  • Gloves and other outside winter playwear
  • 8×8 (or similar size) glass (or other microwaveable) baking dish
  • Microwave
  • Masking tape
  • Hot pads or oven mitts
  • adult supervision

What You Do:

Snowmen - states of matter

Go in your yard and build a small snowman. Since this snowman will come in your house and take a trip into your microwave, make sure he'll fit. And don't worry about decking it out with eyes or other accessories. Once you're happy with your snowman, carefully place it in the shallow baking dish and bring it in the house. Go to the kitchen, and with an adult or older person's help, put the dish, snowman and all, in the microwave. Turn on the microwave for about a minute or so and watch as the snowman melts. Once only water remains, use the oven mitts to take the dish out of the microwave and look it over. Use a piece of masking tape to mark the water line on the outside of the container. Then return it to the microwave and turn it on again, this time for about three to four minutes. Watch closely. After a time, the water should begin to bubble and boil. Keep watching! Soon you should see steam rising from the dish. Continue watching and adding time to the microwave until you've been able to observe the steam cloud over the dish for 30 seconds or longer. Very carefully use the oven mitts to take the container out of the microwave. Is the water now below the tape?

What Happened:

Water is a unique substance. It is the only naturally occurring substance that can exist in all three states of matter at the temperatures normally found on Earth. The states of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. As the snowman, the water was a solid. When it melted, it became a liquid. The steam you saw when the water boiled was actually water in its gas form, and it's also called water vapor. Although water is normally a  liquid, when it reaches 32°Fahrenheit (F), it freezes into ice. Ice is the solid state of water. Water boils when it reaches 212° F. When it boils, some of the water turns into steam, which is water in its gas state of water and is also called water vapor.

So if water, ice, and steam are all the same thing, why do they look so different? Some substances, like water, can have more than one different state of matter. When an object is a solid, its molecules (or the smallest part of a substance that can still be identified as that substance) are arranged in a rigid pattern and don't move very much. But in a liquid, molecules are farther apart from each other and move around instead of sticking together. The movement is why liquid will take the shape of the container it is in. With gas, the molecules are even further apart and move really fast with no pattern at all.

Test your knowledge with this properties of matter worksheet.

Silly Science

  • Where does a snowman keep his money?
    • In a snow bank.
  • What do you call a snowman in the summer?
    • A puddle!
  • What do snowmen order at the drive-through?
    • Iceberg-ers.

Fun Facts

  • Almost every location in the U.S. has seen snowfall, even southern Florida!
  • Although beautiful and fun to play in, snow can be dangerous! Hundreds die yearly from snow-related traffic accidents, overexertion and exposure.
  • Skiers have their own words for different types of snow; some are 'powder,' 'corduroy,' and 'mashed potatoes.'

Way Cool Websites

 

DIY Snow Globe

DIY Snow GlobeKids of all ages, the young and the young at heart, appreciate the appeal of a snow globe. And even young kids are capable of mastering this easy DIY snow globe.

What You Need:

  • Small glass jar with tight fitting lid
  • Hot glue gun or super glue
  • Distilled water
  • Liquid glycerin or light corn syrup
  • Fake snow or glitter (find at craft stores)
  • Small plastic trees, animals, houses, or other decorations
  • Adult supervision

What You Do:

  1. With a grown-up's help, use the superglue or hot glue to affix your trees or other decorative items to the inside of the lid. Let dry.
  2. Fill jar about 3/4 full of water (or about 1/2 if using corn syrup).
  3. Put a few pinches of glitter or fake snow in the jar.
  4. Screw the lid on very tightly.
  5. Turn your jar upside-down and watch the snow fall inside your homemade DIY snow globe.
  6. Now add several drops of liquid glycerin (or an equal amount of corn syrup) making sure you leave room for air at the top. Repeat step 5.
  7. Finally, if you like, you may decorate the base (lid) of your snow globe with ribbon, fabric, or pretty paper.

What Happened:

Have you ever noticed how sometimes objects of the same size weigh different amounts? That's because of density. We figure out an object's density by comparing its mass to its volume. Mass refers to the amount of matter that makes up an object. Volume refers to the amount of space an object occupies. Compare a rock and a marshmallow that are the same size (having equal volume), which is heavier? The rock is, because it has more mass. That means the rock has greater density than the marshmallow because it has more mass (amount of matter) in the same volume (occupied space).

Liquids have density, too. The more dense a liquid is, the easier it is for an object to float on. Glycerin (or corn syrup) is more dense than water; so after we added it to the snow globe, the snow fell more slowly. Try adding a few more drops of glycerin (or corn syrup). What did you notice? You should have found that the more glycerin (or corn syrup) you add, the slower the snow falls. Learn more about liquid density with these projects.