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Snowflake Bentley

by Dom Murphy

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To celebrate snowflakes.

Preparation and materials

  • Download pictures of Wilson Bentley – the man who first managed to photograph a single snow crystal, or snowflake, in 1885.
  • Also find some images of how snow crystals form and images of different snowflakes.
  • You will also need a map of the USA showing Vermont and the means to display it and the other images so the children can see them well during the assembly.
  • Prepare the following quote to show with the other images: ‘Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost.’

Assembly

  1. Welcome the children back to school. Ask if they have had fun in the snow.

    Snow is fascinating stuff. Water droplets turn to ice crystals high up in the clouds. These crystals bump into other crystals and become snowflakes. 

    The air that the snowflakes fall through has to be below freezing, otherwise the snowflakes will melt and turn into rain. 

    Show images of snow crystals forming a snowflake.

    I bet that most of you know one fact about snowflakes – every snowflake is different.

    I’d like to tell you about the person who discovered this fact – the man who became known as ‘Snowflake Bentley’ or ‘The Snowflake Man’.

  2. He was an American called Wilson A. Bentley.

    Show photo of Bentley.

    He was born nearly 150 years ago in Vermont, where the winters are very cold. 

    Show map and point out where Vermont is.

    A self-educated farmer, he became fascinated by snow crystals. He looked at them under a microscope and tried to draw them, but they were too complicated to record before they melted, so he invented a way of attaching a camera to his microscope and, after a lot of experimentation, he managed to take some photographs.

    Most of his pictures aren’t actually of snowflakes. They are of snow crystals. 

    Show photos of snow crystals.

    It's amazing that some of these photos are 120 years old.

  3. In 1925, Bentley was quoted as saying (show and read out quote): ‘Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost.’

Time for reflection

Here’s an interesting thing to know about Bentley’s work. In his life, he must have taken many thousands of photos of snow crystals, but he only kept 5,000, because most of them weren’t perfect. In fact, none of them was perfect, but you’d have to look closely to see the imperfections.

Look again at a photo of a snowflake, to see its imperfections.

People are like snowflakes – every one of us is different. We have different ideas, different skills and talents, different personalities.

None of us is perfect, though. It’s very easy to see the imperfections in people – the little faults, the things that stop them from being perfect – instead of taking a step back and looking at the good things which make them special and unique. 

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the story of Wilson Bentley, The Snowflake Man.
You have made every snow crystal different and unique and you have made every one of us different and unique, too.
Help us, Lord, to see the goodness and beauty in everyone we know.
Amen.

Publication date: January 2014   (Vol.16 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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