Your Guide to Winter Outdoor STEM Activities

Cover Image Guide To Outdoor STEM Activities/ A group of children playing in the snow

Picture this: a winter wonderland transformed into a vibrant canvas of scientific and mathematical exploration. Outdoor education isn’t just for the warm summer months, but for winter as well. In this ultimate guide to winter outdoor STEM activities, we will explore ways of engaging kids in the captivating realms of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math while getting outside and learning. From the architectural potential of snow to the hidden chemistry within snowflakes, this guide will equip you with winter educational adventures to take learning outside. So, let’s bundle up and embark on a hands-on learning adventure that will leave your students inspired and eager for more.

a group of children on sleds

Before You Start- Winter Outdoor Education Safety

Ensuring that everyone is safe and comfortable will ensure that your students have a positive experience and want to get outside more during the winter.

1. Dressing for the Weather

To ensure your students stay comfortable, warm and dry it’s important to ensure that everyone comes dressed for the winter weather. Kids who don’t come with ski pants or forget their mittens will get wet and cold rather quickly and not enjoy their time outside.

The basics of dressing for winter weather are:

  • dressing in layers
  • avoiding cotton clothing (it gets wet and stays wet)
  • a shell (wind and waterproof layer) as the outer layer on both top and bottom
  • warm winter boots (warm and waterproof)
  • mittens, toques, scarves etc.- bring extras

Take some time to prepare your students so that they know what dressing for the winter weather looks like. You can find some handy tools for communicating with families in our “Get Outside Tool Kit.”

2. Check the Snow and Weather Conditions in Advance

As part of ensuring your student’s safety, be sure to conduct a site assessment of the area you plan on using. Before taking your students out to build, ensure that you check the snow and weather conditions in the area that you plan to build in.

Some Additional Things to Consider Are:

  • how deep is the snow? can the kids easily travel through the snow? Is it accessible to everyone?
  • is the snow covering up any potential hazards?
  • are there icy areas that kids need to be aware of?
  • are there any hazards in the area that need to be mitigated?
  • are there areas with overhanging snow or ice that could fall?
  • what is the temperature and windchill?
  • do we have a warm-up space?
4 children outside in the snow

Winter Outdoor Education STEM Activities

Winter Science- Snow Chemistry

Snow is a great way to help our students understand the properties of matter. As your students immerse themselves in playing and exploring in the snow, they are simultaneously engaging in scientific thinking. They can observe how the snow changes as it melts, exploring concepts of states of matter and the properties of water.

Here are some fun activities that allow students to play in the snow while exploring the properties of snow.

Snowflake Scientist:

Learn about how snowflakes are formed, why snowflakes are 6-sided, and different shapes of snowflakes. Some free printables are also available.

Snowflake ID

Identify snowflakes with this cool chart. When exploring snowflakes I also like to provide my students with a piece of black felt or black cardstock (put them outside ahead of time to keep them cold) to study their snowflakes on. Magnifying glasses are also important.

The volume of Water in Snow

There is more to snow than meets the eye. Explore the volume of water in snow with this cool experiment.

Make Ice-cream outside

Making ice-cream outside with your students can be a fun way to explore how matter changes. Not only is it fun, but it is a delicious way to explore the properties of matter!

girl blowing snowflakes

Engineering and Technology Challenges to Get Your Students Thinking Creatively with Snow

Snow and ice are great tools for your students to explore engineering principles. There are so many ways that snow can be used to build and design. The stickiness and texture of snow change day to day and challenge our students to think creatively and be flexible with their ideas. Additionally, as students work collaboratively on these challenges they practice their communication, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Some engineering challenges in the snow include:

Build the Tallest Snowman

Challenge your students to build the tallest snowman. (This requires some sticky snow.) Students must work strategically and cooperatively to create a snowman that is not only tall but has a base that is able to support the weight of wet snow.

Build a snow brick tower

If sticky snow is not available (usually during the colder months) students can be challenged to build the tallest tower of snow bricks. Students must either source or form their snow bricks and then design a structure that is now only sturdy, but also tall.

Build a strong snow bridge.

Challenge students to build a bridge either by tunnelling through snow or by building it up with snow bricks. Set some criteria that the students must meet…for example, must be ___ wide or ___long, must be able to support ___)

Insulation Experiments

Try this experiment to find the best insulator…but test it outside.

Sled Building Challenge

Have your students build a sled. Or challenge them to design their own.


Explore Indigenous technology with snowshoes. Learn the basics of snowshoeing here!

Snow Forts

Use snow forts to explore building techniques and design principles.

a group of snowmen of various heights outside in winter

Outdoor Math Games: Taking Numbers Out into the Snow

So often we think of math as an indoor activity. However, there are so many ways that math can be taken outside, even during the winter months. Here are some fun and engaging ways that you can take math outdoors and have fun with numbers and geometry.

Number Hunt

This is a great activity for younger students that are just beginning to identify numbers. Take your students on a walk in your community and try to find numbers. You can also hide numbers in your outdoor space and have the students find them. Students can further practice their number skills through drawing numbers in the snow.

Hidden Math Challenges

In this activity, you hide different math problems around your outdoor learning space. Students need to first find the problems and then solve them.

Snow Mass Measurement

Weigh and compare the snow. Students can explore the properties of snow from different areas of their schoolyard or learning space through comparison.


Students can use found materials, loose parts, or even things they build from snow to create patterns. Older students can be challenged with snow mandalas or increasing patterns.

Snow Measurement

Take your measurement activities outside. Measure the amount of snow fall or measure your snow creations. As an enrichment activity for building snowmen or snow forts, students can be challenged to measure different aspects of their creations.

Snow Fort Calculations

Calculate the area of your snow fort. Once students have built a snow fort, they can measure and then calculate the area (or even the volume) of their snow fort.

Temperature Measurement

Practice using thermometers as you explore temperature differences in different areas of your learning space. You could even integrate this with telling time if you wanted to track the temperature over time.

Practice Measuring Distance with Sledding

Use sleds and find ways to measure and compare the distance that each sled or person travelled. This can be done with standardized measurement, comparison, or non-standard measurement.

Meter stick in snow

Now Let’s Get Outside and Explore…

Winter isn’t a time to hibernate, but a time to explore. Get outside with your students and start discovering the magic and mystery of winter. You will be amazed at what your students learn and discover while learning outside. Getting outside with your students will allow both you and your students to experience the benefits of outdoor learning. You will also be able to begin building your connection to nature, even during the colder months. Don’t let a little bit of snow stop you from getting outside and thriving.

Check Out More Ways to Get Outside This Winter…

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