My husband had this game on his phone called Alchemy that we were obsessed with playing. The basic concept of the game is to take the four elements and add them together in different variations, then adding another element to create as many new compounds as possible. Water + Earth = Mud. Mud + Fire = Clay. It isn't completely scientific, but it still challenges one to understand the effects of elements on one another and the process of change.
This season, we have had one constant element - SNOW! In seven weeks, we have had eight storms: Polar Vortex I and II, an Arctic Blast, an Ice Storm, a Winter Nor'easter and just plain old snow! We have had back-to-back storms with nonstop flurries that knit a wintry wool blanket over everything, changing suddenly with more moisture until snow banks have sunk under the weight of water. When temperatures dropped even more, the falling snow turned into ice storms leaving icicle branches and a frosted silhouette behind.
These stormy episodes were caused by varying meteorological factors that severely impacted the weather. The human condition paralleled this change with excitement about the first snowfall eventually turning towards bitter tirades about the weather. The snow has brought playful delight and glee, as well as back-bending pain, obstacles, frustration, and even seasonal affective disorder.
Much like anything else in life, there is a saturation point for any substance that when exceeded can cause a negative reaction. Depending on circumstance, the element of water can reflect, magnify, obscure, illuminate, diffuse, adorn, cleanse, and pollute. Although an element is transformed through contact with another, what it becomes is influenced by the nature of that other. And so is our experience of this never-ending snow.
So far, we have had double the amount of snow since last year, but perhaps in spring we will see double the yield of beauty. Oh to another season coming… Life can be simple chemistry or it can be magical alchemy.
To explore more ways to innovate an element, join us at the NAA 2014 Conference in NYC from 2/28/14 to 3/2/14 http://educonf.naahq.org/
If you have any students who want to write an ode to water, visit www.nyc.gov/dep/artandpoetry
For more on how elements change, visit TED ED http://ed.ted.com/lessons/if-molecules-were-people-george-zaidan-and-charles-morton
To bring joy to the winter, check out cool experiments at http://www.livescience.com/42371-cold-weather-science-experiments.html
To teach about the Winter Olympics, go to http://www.edutopia.org/blog/winter-olympics-2014-learning-resources-matt-davis