Elementary Science Program



Developed by: Kathy Weeks of the Beaverton School District

With flurries of snow in the air, here are some inquiry possibilities. (Now we just hope for snow that sticks!)  You and your class may decide to investigate one of the following questions from beginning to end. If you teach second or third grade, perhaps you'll want to give your students a chance to practice coming up with simple investigation plans (designs) of their own.  Students could work in small groups to decide and write about how they'd set about answering the question you pose.  Regroup to discuss their plans and perhaps formulate one as a whole class to use.

NOTE:  A few of the melting questions below could apply to evaporation and plain water.

  • Getting Set For Activity
  • Forming a Question
    or Hypothesis
  • Designing Investigation,
    Collecting & Presenting Data,
    Analyzing & Interpreting Results

Getting Set For Activity

When it snows (enough to stick), and after you and your class have shared some of the excitement of the day (perhaps by taking a "snowy day walk" or reading some good stories about snow together), inform your students that they get to be scientists who'll investigate snow.

A science inquiry question is one that can be answered by making observations and collecting data.  A good inquiry question can pass the "SPAM Test


  • Are we changing just one thing (variable) and measuring just one thing? (i.e. If you want to know if water will evaporate faster in an open or closed container, are you keeping all other conditions the same—amount of water, size and shape of container, location of container—and just changing one thing—putting a cover on one container?)
  • Do we have enough time to answer our question?
  •  Do we have the right tools to answer our question?
  •  Do we know how to use these tools?     Will our investigation be safe?


  • Are the terms in our question well defined so we understand exactly what we're asking?
  • Are we able to collect data to answer the question?  (i.e. What exactly do we mean by "tall" and "short" if we ask, "Do we have more tall plants or short plants in our garden?"
  • What do we mean by "move" if we ask, "How many times does our pet guinea pig move in one minute?" Tall, short, and move need to be precisely defined.)
  • Can we observe and measure something to answer our question? (like the preceding criterion)

Depending upon the ages of your students and their understandings as you proceed with some inquiry in your class, you may want to directly share this mnemonic device with them as you talk about what makes a question good for an investigation. This would probably be more appropriate for third grade.

Forming a Question or Hyposthesis

Choose one question from the following, or invite your class to ask their own questions about snow. (Keep in mind the SPAM criteria.)

  • Will a snowball melt faster in an open or a closed container?
  • How long does it take a snowball to melt?
  • Where in our room will snow melt the fastest?
  • Which melts first: one cup of frozen water (ice) or one cup of snow? Does it take longer for a more tightly packed snowball to completely melt than one not packed as tightly?
  • Does a bigger snowball contain more water than a smaller one?

Designing an Investigation, Collecting and Presenting Data, Analyzing and Interpreting Results:

  • Decide how you'll investigate the question chosen and how students will collect and record data. Will students need a data sheet on which to record their observations and measurements?
  • When investigation is complete, analyze the results and see if they lead students to more questions.