When children wake up with the outdoor world coated with even an inch or two of snow, the transformation of their world isn’t partial, as it is for the jaded among the rest of us, who’ve seen hundreds of snowfalls come and go. We have turned into the shovelers, the drivers, the schleppers, the planning-ahead experts.
A snowfall is a complete transformation, for kids. And so it is for the animals with whom young children are apt to identify. To follow and learn from children’s newness to snow, and extend their own scientific curiosity, have a look at Melissa Stewart’s book Under the Snow. It’s recommended for ages 4–8, but teaches and parents should consider it for twos and threes. The book takes us on a walk through different habitats—wetland, pond, forest, and others—and shows how different processes unfold under the snow in those different settings. Along the way, meet a vole, a newt, a chipmunk, and a carp.
The advantage of not thinking ahead to when the snow will melt, nor applying sand or “Sno-Melt,” means the very youngest children are open to the in-the-moment experience—to the eye-popping, swirling, tactile weirdness of snow.
There’s a nice “reader’s theater” script that goes with Under the Snow:
Narrator: Under the snow in a pond…A bluegill circles slowly through the chilly water.
Bluegill: Glug! Glug! I sure wish I had enough energy to catch that little bug.
Narrator: The waterboatman swimming nearby has a different point of view.
Water boatman: Thank goodness that big fish can’t chase me down!
Taking an animal’s point of view is a terrific way for kids to learn about the world.
Snow is a great open-ended toy, too; its rarity and serendipity makes it all the more so.
Postscript: I was lucky to meet Melissa Stewart last spring at the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society conference. I’m enthralled with all her work. Feathers: Not Just for Flying is a recent one that hits that difficult sweet spot in nature education picture books.There are always terrific authors at the MEES conference. This year it will be on March 5, 2015. Here are a few more folks I admire who were at last year’s conference: