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Snowflake Bentley

Last updated Monday, November 21, 2005

Author: Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Date of Publication: 1998
ISBN: 0395861624
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2005

Synopsis: This biography tells the true story of a Vermont farm boy who was mesmerized by snowflakes. Wilson Bentley was fascinated by the six-sided frozen phenomena, and once he acquired a microscope with a camera, his childhood preoccupation took on a more scientific leaning. Bentley spent his life taking countless exquisite photographs examining the tiny crystals and their delicate, mathematical structures.

Note to readers:
•  Option: Have one volunteer read the story and one story read the side notes.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is nonfiction? What makes a story fiction and what makes a story nonfiction?
•  What is one thing that you are interested in? Is there something that you have a ?passion? for?
•  What challenges would there be if you had to live in a place that had ten feet of snow?
•  How do things look different when you use a microscope?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What special challenges are there for Bentley when trying to study snowflakes?
•  What did he do every winter with snowflakes?
•  What are hexagons? What shapes were the snowflakes?
•  How did he view snowflakes differently than others?
•  How did his parents support his desire to learn more about snow?
•  How did he view nature differently than others? What did he see in nature that had patterns? What are some things that you see in nature that has patterns?

Craft ideas:
•  Cut out a snowflake and use it as a design for a card. Paste it onto a folded sheet of construction paper. Bring ahead option: lace doilies.
•  Cut out a lot of snowflakes and make your own blizzard on a sheet of paper.
•  Bentley collected and drew snowflakes. What is something in nature that you might be interested in collecting. Draw a collection of that item and make cards for each one. Example, spider webs, bugs, leaves, flowers, etc.
•  Everyone's fingerprints are different. Have everyone stamp their fingerprint on a sheet of paper and look for differences in the patterns. Bring ahead option: stamp pad and magnifying glass.

Special activities:
•  Have a snowflake making contest. Vote on the best one and the most intricate one.
•  Play the photography game. Have one person be the photographer and one be the camera. The ?camera? will have his/her eyes shut and the ?photographer? will ?aim? that person at an object. Then ?click the shutter? by tapping the camera person on the shoulder and the person will open and shut eyes. Then with eyes closed, have the ?camera? describe what s/he saw and the photographer will tell him/her if it is accurate or what s/he had in mind.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!