December brings shorter days and cooler weather to Washington, D.C., and our thoughts have turned to snow. Primary sources about snow and snow-related activities can be a great starting point for studying weather, comparing current winter pastimes to those of the past, and even studying clothing and snow-removal equipment. Search for materials using terms including snow, blizzard, winter, snow shoes, ice hockey, ice skating, skiing and snow shovel. You can find tips on searching on the Library’s Web site.
Here are just a few ideas for teaching with primary sources about snow:
Share this image of an early snow gauge with students but don’t tell them what it is. Ask them to study it for clues about the purpose of the structure. After they figure out what it is, have them design other ways to measure snow or research what a current snow gauge looks like.
How many of your students have stories about experiences they had during a big snow storm, perhaps during the winter storms of 2009-2010? Read and analyze the experiences of others as recorded in oral histories from the Library’s collections. Have students read about the experience of Mr. Botsford during the blizzard of 1888 and compare it to their own experiences or to those of their parents or grandparents.
Students can search American Life Histories for other stories about life during blizzards in different parts of the country. For example, have students compare experiences of people from the Mid-Atlantic states to the experiences of those living in the Great Plains, or of those in rural versus urban areas. How were people’s experiences similar or different?
Show the students an image such as Men Loading Snow onto Wagons and ask them to write a caption, story or poem about what they see. The Library’s teacher guides and analysis tools can help students get the most out of these and other activities.
Everyday Mysteries includes wonderful historic images of snow crystals to illustrate the answer to the question, “Is it true that no two snowflakes are the same?” Use these and other images to combine science and primary sources in a lesson about snow.
How might you enhance a lesson on snow using primary sources?