It’s become a generational event -- so much so that the students now participating are getting tips from their parents who were part of the tradition at some point in the last 40 years.
Sixth-grade students at Albert D. Lawton (ADL) Intermediate School recently got their chance to make quinzhees, using science, technology, engineering, and math to create snow shelters on the fields surrounding their school.
While the first of two rounds was conducted Jan. 26, the second round slated for Jan. 29 had to be postponed because of the frigid temperatures. That may have actually been beneficial as the students in the second round were able to take advantage of the fresh snowfall that occurred days before their Feb. 5 turn to build.
Quinzhees are similar to igloos in that they are both shelters made of snow. However, igloos are constructed with hardened blocks of snow while quinzhees are a mound of packed snow that is then hollowed out.
But it’s not as simple as it might sound to build a strong and sturdy quinzhee.
After piling the snow high enough -- using sleds to transport the flaky material to the site of the quinzhee -- students then inserted eight to 10 sticks, about 12 inches each in length, through the exterior of the mound.
This is not to help with the structural integrity of the quinzhee but is rather an indication to the students scooping out the inside of when to stop. If they stop scraping at the opposite end of each stick, then the wall will be an equal thickness that’s strong enough where it won’t collapse.
The project is the brainchild of ADL humanities teacher Peter Gustafson who initiated it after starting his tenure at the school in 1980. He estimates that he’s seen nearly 1,000 quinzhees built on the campus in the 40 years he’s been leading the endeavor.
“What's the most fun is that each year I see a second generation of quinzhee makers,” said Gustafson. “This year, perhaps 8-10 quinzhee makers took advice from their moms and dads who made them with me 20 years or so earlier. Ava Kulikowskil and her twin sister, Abigail, for instance made quinzhees this past week -- just as their brother, Isaac, their mother, and their aunt had also done. Loads of fun, yet the students also now know how to make a shelter they could survive in someday if necessary.”
The quinzhee construction also contained a creative aspect as the students were able to decorate their structure, using food coloring and customized flags to help identify and personalize their work.