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Lesson Plans

Re: Snowflakes

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
M.Grosspietsch (teachart)
Mon, 07 Dec 1998 22:32:06 -0600

Snowflakes aren't a part of my curriculum, and I've been really quiet on
this list for months, but I had to respond to this snowflake post,
because it hits all of my family tradition buttons. My response gets
long, but I encourage you to read it anyway for the seasonal cheer I
hope it brings.

I come from a family where an incredibly fragile and lacey, six pointed
snowflake had to pass my mother's scrutiny in order to be taped to the
window for display. So my siblings and I cut, and cut, and cut, our
correctly (6-way) folded paper (usually squabbling over the best
scissors). We cut for hours, trying to out-do each other. We are all now
extremely proud of this seasonal, artistic tradition where scientific
accuracy and strong craftsmanship were taught and valued. We really
didn't have any other winter/holiday traditions. Due to several lean
years, we didn't have gifts or decorations or "special food" of any kind
on any particular winter day, but we ALWAYS HAD our unique and beautiful
snowflakes on the window to welcome winter each year.

One of my sisters was known as an "edge" specialist: her snowflake edges
were praised for being wonderfully jagged. One of my brothers was known
for a distinct kind of triangle cut--a signature cut, if you will. My
second to oldest brother was "the best" in all of our eyes. I like to
believe I was one in the top 3 out of the 12 of us. My mother claims to
this day that she can see individual qualities repeated in our
cuts--individual artistic styles--even though we were "just cutting
triangles" in properly folded paper. From these stylistic differences,
she knows who made each one just by looking at those preserved in

I continue this tradition each winter. When people see my snowflakes for
the first time, they react as if they've never seen a dainty 6-pointer!
I freely share the techniques my mother taught us; however, most people
stop cutting way too soon (leaving too much paper--creating a "heavy"
flake more similar to swiss cheese) and/or they cut shapes other than
compound triangles (don't know what else to call 'em), which detracts
from the crystal growth effect the triangle cuts give. The "magical
transformation" just doesn't happen somehow when viewing a heavy, oddly
cut flake, six points or no six points. There is so much more to it!

Ann, we must be part of a rare group, but I agree with what you've said
in the sense that "if you're going to do something, do it WELL!" So if
your students are going to make snowflakes, do it right. That means no
more rectangle tissue paper snowflakes with circles and hearts on school
windows in winter, please. Those versons are more reminiscent of
decorative Mexican paper cuttings for lively fiestas--not snow.

Call me petty, too, if you want to, but I bet my snowflakes can beat
just about anybody's snowflakes anyday! :-) (except my second to oldest
brother, perhaps. I wonder if he still makes 'em?)

There's nothing petty in taking pride in a well developed craft, or in
treasuring a simple tradition. My snowflakes have been cherished as
finely crafted gifts. Conspicuous commercialism at this time of year, be
gone! Enjoy the season as simply and free of stress as you can. For me,
that means sticking to one tradition that my daughter and I now share.


Ann Weaver wrote:
> At times I have shown children how to cut paper snowflakes, usually at
> the request of their teachers. When I do, we talk about weather, how
> snowflakes are formed, and have 6 points, about radial symmetry and how
> snowflakes are all different(I know that has been challenged, but I
> don't care - I love telling the kids that they are like snowflakes, all
> different, but all beautiful). When we get around to making them, we use
> math skills to fold in half and then in THIRDS so we get 6 points. I
> know this sounds petty, but I feel that is important to do them as
> acurately as possible and to integrate with other curriculum if we are
> going to do them. It can also be tied into Polish Wyncinanki if you
> want to go that far. How high is the holiday excitement level at other
> schools? Temperatures have hit the 70's here, but kids are full of the
> spirit. ann in nc