The Big Meltdown

Children will explore melting snow.


Lesson Objective

Children will explore the amount of water that results from snow when its melted.


What You'll Need

  • Buckets – 1 per 4 children
  • Shovels or scoops – 1 per child
  • Snow – enough to fill each bucket
  • Rulers – 1 per group of children
  • Markers – 1 per group of children
  • Chart paper

What To Do

Note: The children will be working in groups of 4 for this activity.

  1. Tell the children that they will be working with a small group to explore melting snow.
  2. Have the children dress for going outdoors.
  3. Distribute shovels or scoops and buckets.
  4. Take the children outside, and have them fill their buckets with snow (see Lesson Tips).
  5. Have the children use a marker to mark the level of the snow on the buckets.
  6. Bring the buckets inside, and help the children measure the height of the snow in their buckets using the rulers.
  7. On the chart paper, record the depth of the snow in the buckets.
  8. Ask the children to predict how much water will be in the bucket once the snow melts; record their predictions.
  9. Throughout the day, check on the snow in the buckets. Use rulers to measure the water, and write the measurements on the chart paper.
  10. Compare the results with their predictions (see Did You Know?).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe what you think might happen to the snow if we bring it indoors.
  • Explain what is making the snow melt.
  • Describe what happened to the snow.
  • Explain the difference between the level of the snow and the level of water resulting from the snow melting.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Measure the speed of melting snow in different temperatures. Fill several buckets of snow, mark the level of snow on the bucket, and place the buckets in different locations. For instance, place buckets of snow in the classroom, in a dark closet, in the refrigerator, and outside. Compare the amounts of snow left in the buckets after 1 hour, 2 hours, and throughout the day. Discuss what caused the snow to melt.
  • If the outside temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you can compare the level of water as a liquid to the same level of water as ice. Have groups of children fill buckets halfway with water. Mark the level of water in the bucket. Place the bucket outside for several hours or overnight. Compare the level of the frozen water with the original level of water. Bring the bucket inside, and discuss how water expands as it freezes.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain that the snow would melt if brought indoors?
  • Could children explain that the warmer indoor temperature was the reason the snow was melting?
  • Could children describe what happened to the snow?
  • Could children explain that there was much less water than snow after the snow melted in the bucket?


Did You Know?

A snowflake contains less water than a raindrop. The amount of water from a bucket of melted snow depends on whether the snow was light and fluffy or heavy and wet. Snow that is light and fluffy has more air pockets and has less water. Snow that is heavy and wet has more water. Ten inches of snow will melt to become only about an inch of water.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • snow - small, soft pieces of frozen water that fall from the sky like rain.
  • melt - to change from a solid to a liquid state.
  • measure - to find out the exact size of something.
  • level - the height of something.
  • prediction - a statement that something might happen or is expected to happen.
  • compare - to say how something is like or not like another thing.

Lesson Tips

  • Loosely packed snow will yield less water than firmly packed snow. To get the best results for the exploration, have the children shovel the snow into the buckets without packing down the snow.
  • If real snow is not available, use finely chopped ice for the exploration. Have each child fill a large, clear cup with chopped ice, and continue the exploration as above.


  • The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino
  • Snow by Cynthia Rylant
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Snow (Weather Watchers) by Cassie Mayer

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS