Snowflakes usually grow with 6 sided symmetry because of the symmetry of water molecules. Water is polar, which means it has different charges on the different sides of the molecule. When water molecules get close together, the like-charged sides repel and the unlike-charged sides want to come together to form what's called a hydrogen bond. This means that water wants to form a particular shape when it solidifies, where the molecules form a hexagon pattern.
This hexagonal lattice of ice is what gives snowflakes their 6 sided symmetry. Since the smallest seed crystal is in a hexagonal lattice, when incoming water molecules attach onto that seed, the place they stick is set by that initial shape. Isn’t it crazy to think that symmetry at the atomic scale determines symmetry that we can see?
With this in mind, let's make our own snowflakes!
Follow these instructions to make your own (scientifically accurate!) paper snowflakes with 6 sides.
How close can you make your paper snowflakes to the real thing? Explore the site above to get inspiration from some real snowflakes, and learn more about the physics of snowflakes here!