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3 fun wintertime projects to do when it’s cold outside

When Old Man Winter bares his cold, sharp icicle fangs, don’t turn into an indoor flake. Bite back!

Here are three cold-weather projects to sink your teeth into during winter and walk away with a few cool souvenirs.


snowflake-550

MAKE A SNOWFLAKE FOSSIL

snowflakeA tiny, one-of-a-kind snowflake lands on your coat sleeve. You look; you breathe; it’s gone. How can you make a flake stick around longer?

Try superglue. It can seep into small spaces, and trace amounts of water cause it to harden. Put these properties to work and make a lasting snow crystal “fossil.”

On a snowy day, pre-chill a tube of superglue (not the gel kind) and some glass slides and cover slips outside. Be sure to read the safety precautions on the glue’s label before you start.

Catch some snow on a dark surface. Find a crystal you like and move it to the middle of a glass slide. “Use a small paintbrush or a toothpick,” says snowflake expert Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht. “The crystals are delicate, and metal tweezers can conduct heat from your fingers.”

Cover the flake with a drop of superglue. Touching only its sides, gently place a cover slip over the glue. It can take as long as a week for the glue to completely set. Until then, protect the snow crystal by storing your slide in the freezer.

Later, view your snowflake “fossil” with or without a magnifying lens or microscope.


animaltrack-550

MAKE A PLASTER CAST OF ANIMAL TRACKS

tracksA blanket of snow covers the ground: It’s prime time for animal tracking. So why does your cast of that picture-perfect raccoon print look like it came from an eight-toed alien?

Don’t give up just yet. Making plaster casts of tracks in snow is tricky but not impossible.

Before you cast, reinforce the track so it can stand up to the weight of the plaster. If the snow is wet, dust it with some powdered plaster and let it set. If the snow is dry and powdery, spray a mist of water over the track and wait for it to freeze. You can also try using Snow Print Wax — crime-scene investigators use it to collect evidence.

Plaster gives off heat as it hardens. When casting in snow, mix the plaster to the thickness of half-melted ice cream, adding some snow to cool it down. Pour from a short distance to minimize damage to the track.

If the plaster freezes before it sets, turn the cast track-side up and bring it inside to thaw and finish setting.

New to tracking or just want to brush up? Check out these books:

  • “Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks” by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95 softcover)
  • “Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature Observation and Tracking” by Tom Brown Jr. (Berkley Trade, $14 softcover)
  • “Field Guide to Tracking Animals in Snow” by Louise R. Forrest (Stackpole Books, $16.95 softcover)

For younger readers:

  • “Nature Detectives” by K.C. Kelley (A Boys’ Life DK Reader, DK Publishing, $3.99 softcover)

hoarfrost-550

MAKE A HOARFROST SCULPTURE

frostFeeling artistic? Team up with the cold and make some hoarfrost. These large, fragile ice crystals might look complex, but they are easy to grow.

When temperatures are below freezing, set out an open pot of water. Put it somewhere that’s wind-free, such as in an unheated shed or barn. Keep the water warm with a hotplate or other heat source. Position a tree branch or other object for the hoarfrost crystals to grow on a few feet above the water. Now wait patiently for at least a day.

The air temperature and amount of water vapor coming from your pot will affect how the hoarfrost crystals grow. You might end up with crystals that look scaly, feathery or needle-like.

Want to hold on to your natural masterpiece in warmer weather? Take a picture!


42 Comments on 3 fun wintertime projects to do when it’s cold outside

  1. I like it

  2. Good project if you live in the U.S.A!
    Wheather Channel are showing tempatures -10 to -45!!

  3. Awesome how do you do that

  4. Lilrobotdude // January 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm // Reply

    Awesone imma try some!!

  5. COOL!!

  6. ill try it

  7. i cant do any of these! i live down south.

  8. pee wee Harris fan 23 // January 3, 2013 at 10:31 pm // Reply

    Yum!

  9. Where I live (New Zealand) it is summer.

  10. maybe a snow storm will hit in 2012 ?

  11. Fish master dave // April 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm // Reply

    I live in MN so we get tons of snow adn would GLADLY share it!

  12. i wish i could do this stuff but i live in hawaii

  13. awesome

  14. I am going to do all of this stuff today, its snowing.

  15. wow i had no idea you could do any of this stuff i didnt even know hoarfrost crystals were real

  16. This is a good project because winter is coming

  17. To bad its only fall!

  18. outdoor man // March 7, 2010 at 11:05 pm // Reply

    I never knew this at all.But thanks to you i am going to build these

  19. crazy yetti // May 27, 2009 at 5:33 am // Reply

    AWESOME!!!!!!!

  20. This is cool, but no snow in florida…

  21. That is awesome!!

  22. TOM TOM TOM TOM TOM // March 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm // Reply

    COOL

  23. cool. im trying the preserving the snowflake one. hope it works =D

  24. it is so cool !!!

  25. sweet

  26. sweet i tried it.

  27. i made it and the next i went to the forest and found some tracks so i did it and they were exactly the same

  28. rock out scout // January 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm // Reply

    i tryed this last week and it really worked! its worth it

  29. thats sweet!

  30. We’re going for it in NH on Jan. 15th. It’s 7 degrees outside and we found a hotplate. Now we a branch and rope and we are all set.

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