“Over and Under the Snow”: Discovering the Subnivean Zone

Lesson Created and Written by: Janimarie Lester DeRose

over and under the snowRecently, my preschool age daughter was given the book Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner  with illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal.  This book explores the subnivean zone or the space between the snow and the earth during the winter’s long months.  We decided to share this wonderful book with her preschool class.


Reading the Story

We introduced the lesson by sharing a winter animal home cake.  My daughter had a wonderful time tucking the little plastic frog down into the mud for winter hibernation, creating a pretzel beaver lodge, hiding a snowshoe hare under an ice cream cone tree etc.

DSC05187The other children loved dissecting the cake and at the end of the lesson eating it!


The Final Cake

We then read Over and Under the Snow and the students carved/drew their own subnivean zones into the sides of leather hard vases. (You could do this if you are a potter or you could easily have the students do this on tiles with a leather hard slip instead of vases.)  If the clay project is too much a simple drawing can be as impactful.  Or you could use scratch boards for added effect where they could scratch away what is under the snow.


Carving their vases…

For our project the students simply used a ball point pen to carve through a white slip surface.  They drew a line depicting the surface of the snow near the top of the vase and applied a blue glaze for the sky.  Then they carved animals under the snow on the rest of the slip.  The bare clay at the base of the vase was to represent the ground.  Later, I fired the vases with a clear glaze.  The students then took them home filled with pussy willows celebrating the coming spring!

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As an outdoor component explore outside with your children looking for plunge holes where small animals dive into the snow.  On a warmish winter day head outside to see the tunnels left behind as the snow around them melts.  This is a delightful activity with children of all ages!


Finding melted subnivean tunnels on a warm winter day…