The crystalline structure of a snowflake is hexagonal (six-sided.) The radiating design of each snowflake is unique. A study of snowflakes expands upon radial design explorations.

Snowflakes by first-graders

Learning Objectives:

When students create snowflake s they develop and practice

  • Strategies for creating a hexagon
  • Hand orientation, placement, and spatial skills
  • Using mathematical variables such as number, grouping, direction, alternation, position, length
  • Decorative design

*For amazing images of actual snowflakes visit: macro photography of snowflakes by Alexey Kljatov

Get Started

Solving the problem of how to construct a 6-sided radial can be an exciting challenge – especially on a snow day. It is both a geometry problem and a design problem. Ask, How could you use the straight line tools to construct a hexagon or 6-sided structure? Pick up on student suggestions as you demonstrate a few strategies. As they experiment, students will generate other solutions!

Here are two ways to generate a six-sided structure with a line:

snowflake crossing

Print a diagonal line. Cross it. Cross it again. Embellish.

snowflake triangles

Print an equilateral triangle. Overlap with another equilateral triangle. Extend the points. Embellish.

*Creating a clear beginning structure is the most difficult part of this exploration. Experiment before trying this with children in order to see possibilities and foresee problems. Allow classroom time to share discoveries and to experiment with a variety of solutions.

Practice Constructing

By practicing before going to construction paper, children have the freedom to try basic structures and to test their ideas. After ten minutes or so of practice time, the teacher hands out blue construction paper for final prints.

After building the basic structure, an 8 year-old picks up the smaller line tool to create the sides of his hexagon. Notice how carefully he works to get the correct hand orientation to print each side. It is not so easy! Check out his final creation – done a few minutes later – under Printing (below).

*Offer only the large line tool to begin. Add the smaller tool when you observe that children need it.

*Ask students to count the number of sides on their constructions. Often octagons are created, since they are easier to construct. Do allow for this possibility!

Print

In this video, taken just 10 minutes later, you can see how this child has built upon his earlier experiment, and has expanded the dimensions and complexity of his snowflake. Now he is using a found object to embellish his design. Notice that he also works with more confidence, since he knows what he is doing.

Embellish

Offering found objects once children have a basic structure becomes a new provocation. However, found objects are not a necessity. Exquisite designs can be created with the large and small line tools. An even smaller line tool could also be added.

Neal's triangular design

Sometimes linear creations can be even more complex and exciting to create.

*As children complete their basic structures, the teacher offers one small found object to each student..

Marcus' example

If I can do it, you can do it! says Marcus, age 8

Related Project: Cut a Snowflake

Cutting a six-sided shape is another way to study and recreate snowflakes. Photocopy paper cut into squares works well.

circlefolding instructions

Marcus' example

4. Snip small triangles from each edge.

laminated paper snowflakes

Snowflakes put through a laminating machine.

Directions from Michelle Dilts, Kindergarten teacher, Smith College Campus School