Winthrop Avenue School fourth grade teacher Alexandra Grodin and librarian Marjorie Falabella developed a multidisciplinary unit incorporating science, photography, technology and English language arts for Bellmore students to study snowflakes. The unit culminated with a videoconference with microphotography expert Michael Peres, a Rochester Institute of Technology professor from the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and College of Art and Design.
Prior to their video conference, the students delved into books about snowflakes, including Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s “Snowflake Bentley,” Mark Cassino’s “The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder” and Neil Waldman’s “The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story.”
The students viewed videos that demonstrated how snowflakes develop, as viewed under a microscopic camera, and learned about the different types of snowflakes, such as prisms, plates and stellar dendrites. They also learned about snowflake symmetry and created their own paper snowflakes, carefully incorporating symmetry and paper-folding principles. They were even able to take advantage of the season’s first snow to conduct classroom experiments.
Ms. Falabella also shared her interest in snowflake photography and having been influenced by Wilson Bentley, known as Snowflake Bentley, the first known person to take detailed photographs of snowflakes and to record their features.
All of the students’ investigatory study of snowflakes paid off as they prepared for Michael Peres’ videoconference by exploring his website presentation “Snowflakes Up Close.” They also viewed his museum exhibit at the Rochester Museum and Science Center and received the opportunity for an up-close view of Snowflake Bentley’s journal, loaned by The Buffalo Museum and Science Center. During the videoconference, Professor Peres shared his art of microphotography and the students were able to ask him questions about his work and passion as a microphotographer.
Ms. Grodin said, “This videoconference was a wonderful way for students to witness how a small interest becomes a hobby that leads to a passion.”