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Make a snowflake!

By David, 15 July 2014 Activity

It’s a classic! Grab a pair of scissors and explore symmetry with this snowflake activity. Plus, we’ll let you in on the hexagonal secret to making them look really real.

You will need

an arrow pointing to a corner of a folded piece of paper.

The ‘centre corner’ is where the creases meet.

  • Thin paper
  • Good pair of scissors

What to do

  1. Fold the paper in quarters.
  2. Your folded piece of paper has two folded sides and two unfolded sides. The folded sides meet at a corner – call this the ‘middle corner’.
  3. Imagine dividing the middle corner into three equal angles. You could measure it with a protractor, but it doesn’t need to be accurate. Fold along the two imaginary lines that trisect your corner.
    Imagine dividing the centre corner into three equal angles.

    Imagine dividing the centre corner into three equal angles.

  4. Your piece of paper will now be 12 layers thick, and there will be some messy flaps on the end furthest from the middle corner. Grab your scissors, and cut off the flaps at the end with one straight cut. If your scissors don’t cut easily, ask an adult to help – if you force it, you could hurt yourself!
  5. Now, cut some pieces out of the two folded sides of your paper. Make sure your cuts go through all 12 layers of paper. But don’t cut the whole side off – make sure to leave some of the folds on each side!
  6. When you think you’ve made enough cuts, unfold your piece of paper. It will look like a beautiful snowflake!

What’s happening?

Someone is cutting a triangle of paper.

Cut off the extra flaps of paper.

Since you’re cutting through 12 layers of paper, you end up with 12 copies of the same cut shape. Each layer forms a wedge shape around the ‘middle corner’ which is actually the centre of the snowflake.

Since there were 12 layers, you might expect your snowflake to have 12 copies of every hole and pointy bit you cut. But there’s a good chance that your snowflake only has six points, and six of each hole.

When you fold a piece of paper, one half gets flipped upside down while the other stay right side up. When all folded up, your snowflake had 12 layers, but every second layer was upside down.

Someone is cutting shapes out of a triangle of paper.

Cut shapes from your piece of paper.

If you look carefully at your snowflake you’ll notice it’s made of 12 wedges, but the wedges next to each other are mirror images. There will be 12 copies of every cut you made, but two copies of the same cut are often right next to each other and merge into one big hole.

More information

Snowflakes and swirlflakes (video)
Make a twisted version of a snowflake

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