Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Hellgate Elementary

Hellgate Elementary students make artificial snow in science lesson

  • Updated
  • 0

The ground might be dry outside, but there was plenty of snow to be found inside Hellgate Elementary School on Tuesday.

As part of a yearlong project to promote science education, Ben Reeves, a researcher with Missoula-based Rivertop Renewables, will visit Shane Byers’ first-grade class every month to conduct experiments with his students.

Tuesday’s topic was snow – and the students got to make artificial flakes in their classroom.

Reeves said he applied for a grant from an American Chemical Society program called Science Coaches last summer that is meant to bring working professionals into the classroom to show students some of the basics of the field.

“It allows chemistry professionals to share their expertise and enthusiasm for science in the schools,” Reeves said.

As part of the grant application, Reeves had to partner with a classroom he would work with if the grant was approved. His search was a simple one – his 6-year-old son Silas is one of Byers’ students.

At the start of the year, they received the $500 grant to pay for materials for classroom experiments, including every scientist's most basic safety tool – a pair of goggles – for each student.

Each of Reeves’ visits includes a brief discussion about a scientific principle that is usually related to topics the class is covering, as well as an experiment or demonstration. Byers said some of Reeves other visits so far this year have focused on weather and the water cycle.

Reeves’ visit Tuesday began with a discussion about why snow is important.

After many of the kids raised their hands and answered with their favorite winter activities, Reeves said that to him the biggest role snow plays comes in the spring and summer when it provides a source of water as the weather becomes warmer and drier.

"The mountains get to store all of our water, and that's the reason I like snow,” he told the students.

Because they couldn’t get their hands on actual snow, the demonstration for the day involved making artificial snow.

The students broke into groups and each was given a Petri dish containing a white powder. Reeves said it was a highly absorbent material called Insta-Snow, similar in composition to what is used in diapers to soak up liquid, that is commonly used by the film industry to create artificial flakes.

The students then poured water into the dish of powder, first writing a hypothesis in their "science journals" about what they thought would happen.

At one table in the classroom, Brady Lanz, Jack Sullivan and Charlotte Ward worked together.

For a brief second after Lanz poured some water – which was colored with food dye to make it easier to see – his face showed disappointment as the powder remained in the bottom of the dish. Within moments though, the powder expanded into a damp, fluffy material that closely resembled real snow.

“Oh, that’s so cool. It’s like it exploded,” Ward said. “It’s soft – I wish we could take a bag of it home.”

Ward she always loves the days when “Dr. Ben” comes to visit her class. Her favorite experiment so far was when he talked about condensing air and how weather works – he made a cloud in a bottle in front of the classroom.

Reeves concluded the lesson by talking with the students about various objects that, while solid, are composed mainly of water.

Reeves is volunteering his time to visit the classroom and said Rivertop Renewables is very supportive of the effort. One of his main goals is to make sure the kids have fun while they learn.

“They are natural scientists,” Reeves said. “There’s a deep sense of wonder they bring to the process.”

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alert

Breaking News