Footprints in the Snow

Make your own winter footprints with Insta-Snow

If you’re dreaming of a Winter Wonderland but you’re stuck in the middle of the desert this winter, then Insta-Snow is the perfect choice. Or, maybe you are already in the middle of a Winter Wonderland but you don’t want to bring the real (cold) stuff inside! What’s even better than an erupting blizzard of Instant Snow? Making footprints in the snow! Just imagine the kids’ faces when they find Santa’s footprints this Christmas or when they find animal tracks in snow on a nature walk. Break out the Insta-Snow because it’s time to make your own Winter Wonderland… complete with Footprints in the Snow.

Experiment Materials

  • Insta-Snow powder
  • Water
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • Pictures or cutouts of footprints
  • Boots or shoes

Experiment

  1. Start by finding pictures of animal tracks on-line or in books.  Some fun ideas are reindeer, moose… even elves.  You can even trace a boot to make a Santa Claus footprint.
  2. Trace all of the footprints on separate pieces of cardboard, making sure to keep both the “inside” and “outside” portions of the footprint.
  3. If you don’t want to use a footprint cut-out, you can use your own boots or shoes and follow Step 7 to make an outline of your footprint!
  4. Mix up a batch of Insta-Snow.  The mixing proportions are best if you start with small batches and make more from there.  Try putting 1 teaspoon of Insta-Snow in a cup and adding about 60 mL (2 oz) of water.
  5. In just seconds your mixture will erupt into a fluffy mound of fake snow!
  6. Lay the “inside” portion of the footprint on the floor (in a place where people won’t be walking and that is not water-sensitive).
  7. Sprinkle the snow around the footprint template, being careful to keep a clean edge around the template for the most recognizable footprint.
  8. Remove the template and… voila!  It’s a footprint in the snow!
  9. Repeat steps 5-7, turning the template over each time to create left and right feet, as many times as desired.
  10. You can also use the “outside” portion of the footprint template to create the look of footprints made out of snow.

How Does It Work?

Insta-Snow, the original Instant Snow, is an amazing superabsorbent polymer that turns ordinary water into a fluffy substance that looks like real snow. This faux snow is so realistic that it is now being used on movie sets and in indoor snowboarding parks.

The mixologists at Steve Spangler Science coined the name Insta-Snow, the Original Instant Snow. This fake snow is in a classification of chemicals called polymers. The word polymer simply means long chain of molecules (“poly” means many and “mer” is a unit or molecule). Instant Snow soaks up water using the process of osmosis (water molecules pass through a barrier from one side to the other). When water comes in contact with the polymer, it moves from outside the polymer to the inside and causes it to swell. The polymer chains have an elastic quality, but they can stretch only so far and hold just so much water.

Additional Info

Read a classic story like The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats before making your snow footprints.  The story and the footprints make a wonderful science and literature connection that your students or children won’t forget!