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Snowman science

Ideas and inspiration across the curiculum

This activity was inspired by the children's book The Snowman's Coat by Brenda and Stuart Naylor. Would putting a coat on a snowman when the sun comes out help him to stop melting or speed it up? Staff at Southlake Primary School in Bexley made "icemen" by freezing 100 plastic cups of water in the canteen freezer, and the children each brought in a spare sock. I wrote a script for four children to act out the story, and brought in the video of The Snowman to show in assembly.

It was a hot July morning. In class, Years 3 to 6 figured out ways to compare changes to sock-covered and uncovered pairs of the "icemen", which had been melting in shallow trays for an hour or so. Some weighed mass change, others collected and measured melt-water volume. They produced bar charts, which showed that the coat did slow down the melting. We talked about how heat-insulating oven gloves slow down heat transfer from the oven to the hands, and how fingers transfer body heat to cold-conducting metals quicker than to equally cold-insulating plastics and fabrics.

Most of the children finally agreed that the "coats" blocked the heat from the covered icemen. Digital video and stills showing presentations of their evidence and conclusions were shown on the plasma screen in the school's foyer.

Terry O'Dea

Secondary strategy science consultant, Bexley

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