Teaching With Literature and Technology

Why is it common knowledge that every single snowflake is unique? Who had the time to figure this out?

The fact lies in the historical story of “Snowflake Bentley.” Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931) was a man who loved snow and went on to extensively study and photograph snowflakes.

The story of his life is documented in “Snowflake Bentley” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. This book combines biographical data with scientific information. The illustrations are spectacular and the book is a Caldecott winner.

His story is one of discovery, yet also perseverance. Imagine the work that goes into trying to capture a photograph of a snowflake. Then add to that the time era he was working in and the technology tools he had available.

After reading about Snowflake Bentley the fun continues. By visiting the website of the museum that honors him, the snowflakes that he photographed are available to view. One by one, the snowflakes can be viewed and the intricate details exposed. Snowflake Bentley’s dream was to be able to share his passion of snowflakes with the world. If he were alive today he’d be greatly impressed with the ability of everyone in the world to view his work through the internet.

Besides being able to view the snowflake photographs, the internet makes it possible for people today to create virtual snowflakes. Fold the paper, cut little chunks out, open to see what you’ve made, and then continue to cut some more. All of this can be accomplished without a single paper scrap on the floor! Students love to make virtual snowflakes all year round. It is one of their favorite websites to visit. Save some of the snowflakes and import them into your favorite software to add snowflake poetry or stories.

Snowflake Bentley is also an excellent example of how multiple genres can be mixed within one story. There are online resources that allow students to choose a topic and pieces of writing to create their own multi-genre page of writing.

The story of Snowflake Bentley (by Jacqueline Briggs Martin) is an excellent way to kick off any unit about snow, seasons, water cycle, or states of matter.