We get excited and a little bit scared when it snows here on the west coast of southern British Columbia. Why? Well, because we are used to mild, rainy, yet perfectly temperate days most of the year. When the snow does decide to arrive, it is an exciting time for our kids. This year, mother nature decided to grace us with an arctic, soft fluffy snowfall, not at all what we are used to. Different from the heavy wet snow we usually get the students were curious as to why they couldn’t easily make a snowman or construct a well built snow fort. We had to adapt and focus on the delicate and intricate design of the snowflakes that fell. However, less than 24 hours later the west coast rain set in. We ventured outside, only to notice a thick foggy haze that surrounded our field. The students were curious as to why it was so foggy out. It was the perfect and natural way to introduce them to states of matter, a concept, up until this moment, I had only ever taught inside a classroom. I had always re-created changing a solid into a liquid and then gas by using human made products, so much to my delight, here was mother nature creating it for me.
Thinking outside the box often takes a bit of a creative thought process to answer the students many questions and to fuel their curiosity further. As curious as they were about the foggy field, I was as well. It is often hard to re-train my perspective from my own childhood learning to re-creating imaginative yet informed answers to my students in a hands on and in-place ways. So as always we created our sharing circle and I started asking the students why they thought the fog was hanging around. Lots of creative ideas came out: “I think the rain has something to do with it.”, “Maybe it’s the cold snow that is melting.”, “I think it’s low hanging clouds.” As I listened to them inquire and gain information from each other, my own ideas on how to teach them formed. Once inside we talked about the states of matter and how the fog on the field could play into this concept. It was entirely student lead with me navigating the key concepts. They came up with the hypothesis that the snow was the solid (frozen water) state, when the warm rain (liquid state) hit the frozen snow, it began to evaporate releasing it into a gas like state. The engagement and cooperative learning that took place over a couple of days could be felt throughout the entire classroom. All the students felt as though they all contributed and they took complete ownership of their learning. I am grateful for mother nature and the knowledge she shares with us each day. All it takes is a small moment to stop and look, wonder and reflect on the why and how’s of this amazing place.