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Wednesday, January 7, 2015


You’re thinking “What on earth?” But it was true. I taught second grade for a long time at Robins Elementary. And every December before Christmas break, all teachers had to put up bulletin boards for January. It was a “school” rule that all Christmas things must be put away.
One year an idea came to me to teach my students how to make paper snowflakes. I had learned how to make them and thought why not teach them? One specific thing about making them was that onion skin paper had to be used: Onion skin paper is very transparent. After showing my students how to make them, they wanted to make snowflake after snowflake. And I let them.
There must have been 100 snowflakes made. I put some on the bulletin board and some on the windows; the rest I saved for January. There was a huge mess on the floor of pieces of onion skin paper which we all picked up. Christmas vacation came and went and when school started again that year, the weather was frigid and snowy.
Not only were my students sitting there that first day back in a semi-stupor but so was I. The adjustment was difficult but within days, routine went back to normal. And in the back of my mind, I wondered what on earth we’d do with all of those paper snowflakes.
The classroom was hot as all get out due to the fact that the school had steam heat: It could have been 20 degrees outside but so hot inside that I’d have to open more than one window. Upon doing that one morning, one of the paper snowflakes that had been taped to the window fell off and flew down the outside bricks of the school. I looked down and it was stuck there near the first grade classroom below us.
“It’s snowing!” I heard a first grader say. How could I not for their teacher had her windows open as well. Laughed to myself thinking how on earth could a child think that a huge paper snowflake was snow.
And that’s when I got the idea to have my students throw their paper snowflakes out of our windows. To the first graders below us, it must have looked like a gigantic blizzard. Granted some stuck to the bricks of the school but most of them fell past the windows below us and landed on the ground.
When school let out that day, I saw many of those snowflakes clustered around the first grade windows and on the ground. I laughed, got in my car and headed home.
And what do you think happened the next morning? School was canceled due to a heavy snow. No, it wasn’t predicted; it just came with a fury. School was out for three days. Upon return and getting settled in the classroom, one of my students said “Those snowflakes made it snow!” I could see little mouths open with gasps—they wondered if that were true.
“I’m not so sure about that” I told my students as I smiled. Later on that day I was asked if they could make more paper snowflakes. “Yes you can make more but be sure to clean up the mess. We’ll save them and maybe I’ll let you throw them out the windows again sometime soon.”
Tons of paper snowflakes were made for by now my students had become masters of cutting out intricate patterned ones. They were carefully put away in the huge metal cabinet in the classroom but I felt the eyes on me as I did that: Each student saw where they went.
Weeks dragged by as they do in the winter—dreary days that seemed endless. I had shoved the thought of the put away snowflakes in the back of my mind but not my students. One afternoon a boy asked me if they could throw those snowflakes out of the windows again. “Why not?” I asked. I walked to the cabinet, gathered up the snowflakes and handed out several to each student. Windows were opened and the students took turns flinging them out. Again, some stuck on the bricks of the school but most flew by the first grade windows below us.
The first grade windows were not opened but I’m pretty sure that the first graders thought they were again witnessing a blizzard.
And what do you think happened the next school day? It had snowed overnight and school was canceled; in fact, it was canceled for two days. Upon return to the classroom, I was beginning to wonder myself if those paper snowflakes made it snow because my students were certain of it. I tried to explain that there was no way on earth that by doing what they had done would make it snow but on those two occasions, it did.
Realistically I knew it not to be true.
And yet upon a third time of flinging more paper snowflakes out of the windows, it snowed that night and school was canceled.
Back in the classroom, my students kept talking about the paper snowflakes and how magical they were. Trying to get them back on track of learning, I dismissed the idea and since it was February no more paper snowflakes were made. Oh there were more snow days yet to come that year but none of my students had flung those paper snowflakes out of the windows.
By the end of the school year, there wasn’t a single student that didn’t mention how magical they were.
And with a new school year, when winter came, I repeated teaching my students how to make them, throw them out the windows and well you know what happened—it snowed. Coincidence or magic or perhaps neither? But it did happen and would happen every single year that they were made.
Did paper snowflakes make it snow? Logically you know the answer—of course they didn’t. And yet?
Sherry Hill
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Sherry Hill
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