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Snow and Sound

This video highlights the sounds in an environment when there is snow cover and when there is not.

Location
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • Why is it silent when it snows heavily?
  • How does sound differ in each scenario? Why do you think this is?
  • What does this tell us about how sound waves travel?
  • What does this tell us about snow?

Classroom Suggestions

Have students listen to the difference in sound before there is snow on the ground, after recently fallen (fluffy and thick) blanket of snow, and after snow has fallen (difference: when a ball is dropped on a surface without snow and the surface with snow). This demonstrates how snow absorbs soundwaves. This phenomenon is an opportunity to study wave properties (PS4.A) and how sound waves travel.

  • Have a conversation about the different sounds given different conditions with snow. Students should notice that when there is a thick layer of snow, there is no sound. 
  • Show students a picture of a snowflake, have them describe it. How does the structure of a snowflake relate to this phenomenon? 
  • This could be followed by a lab or demonstration on how sound waves travel on different materials. A similar lab can be found here: University of Vermont. In my version, I included stations with the different states of water, I also included memory foam and shaving cream or material that is similar to snow (if there is snow even better). They should realize that sound waves travel differently depending on the surface (sometimes get absorbed, sometimes make things vibrate, etc.) Ask students what they think the common factors of materials that absorb sound are.
  • Lead students to think about what technologies do we use that absorb sound as snow does. Why is this important? 
  • Finally, students can read the following article: Snow science: Silent snow - MSU Extension

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment

Discipline
Physical Science
Disciplinary Core Idea
PS4: Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

Credit Info

Submitted by Magdaly Santos-Villalobos.

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Have you used this resource in your classroom? Do you have ideas for improvement? Share your ideas, experiences and feedback about this phenomena.


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