The Many Lessons of Snowflake Bentley

Recently, on our regular Wednesday trip to the Elkin Public Library, the students heard the story of Wilson Bentley as Ms. Wendy read the Caldecott Award winning book, Snowflake Bentley. The book inspired us to dig a little deeper and find out more about this man who captured more than 5,000 snowflakes in his lifetime. We checked out the companion video from the library and also found a great documentary (“The Snowflake Man”)  on YouTube. After watching the videos, we discussed as a class what it must be like to be the first person ever to do something. We also talked about Bentley’s passion and determination. Next, it was time to make a little art. Inspired by his snowflake images, the students painted their own snowflakes on 4×5 sheet film. The end result was an image that looked very similar to the ones that Bentley was able to capture. Finally, I showed the children my old large format camera. It is not exactly like Bentley’s, but it is similar. They put the dark cloth over their heads and peered through the ground glass on the back of the camera, a very unique experience for kids growing up in the age of digital photography. The whole lesson provided an opportunity for reading, history, science and art. We talked about the parts of the old camera, why the image appeared upside down on the ground glass, the chemistry on the film (half the students had never even heard of film!) and how the aperture of the lens is like a human eye. This integrated approach to leaning is what we are all about!


Wilson Bentley Snowflake Photographs