Let it snow indoors with a snowflake project
For the first day back after an extended break due to extreme cold, my high school geometry students and I made snowflakes. I have used this project for years, but this year I tried something a little different by letting the students sit and think with scissors and paper to figure out on their own how to make one without any direction from me, initially.
It was interesting to watch my students processing what to do. While requiring only that the snowflake created be six-sided and symmetrical and encouraging students to be creative, I observed as the students caught up after not seeing one another for a while, brainstormed how to fold the paper by recalling previous attempts, and then cutting and revealing their creation.
A few students were successful. Some students were almost successful. Most were not.
Students laughed with one another over their attempts.
Then we watched Vi Hart’s snowflake video after which I shared the snowflake method I prefer.
The students tried again and the results were pretty amazing.
In years past, there was no project phase that included students trying to make a snowflake without any help or guidance from the teacher. Rather, I immediately began the snowflake making process with students modeling what I was doing.
After the initial try-it phase this year, I posted an example of each step on a bulletin board, briefly explaining each step and then allowing students be as creative as they desired. We discussed process snowflake variations as well as the connection of our snowflake project to transformations, especially rotations and rotational symmetry.
The next class session after I took home the snowflakes and ironed them flat for better presentation, we hung the snowflakes from the ceiling being careful to follow safety guidelines by using non-flamable materials to do so. (20 small paperclips work well.) The students enjoyed choosing where to hang their snowflake and even took pictures of their snowflakes to share on social media. In other words, they were proud of what they had done. It was a truly enjoyable learning experience.
Generally speaking, this year’s students’ creations were superior to those of prior years.
On an artistic level, I have to think one reason this year’s products were superior is because students were allowed to initially try on their own developing an appreciation of what they were doing as well as an eventual desire to not only do it right but do it well.