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Ice Cutting
Michael Salat, History Teacher

A quandary that we ponder and discuss as we stand on a frozen lake and cut through the ice with augers and ice saws is: why is there more ice in Antarctica and less ice on the Great Lakes, how does this make any sense?

We could investigate ice and the impacts of climate change by reading about it in the classroom, but here at Conserve School, we have both a lake and ice cutting tools available. Learning this lesson in a classroom would not be nearly as engaging as actually working on and with the ice.

The ice cutting lesson in history class satisfies multiple educational goals. Since it is early in the semester, students are still figuring out how to work with each other. This lesson assembles random groups of students and asks them to complete the task of cutting and removing a large chunk of ice from the lake while getting everyone involved. I intentionally don't give the students a great deal of instruction on how to complete the task, so that they have to work together to find a solution. Teamwork and leadership emerge from each group, and those who learn to function well together succeed at the task.

Teamwork is not the only mini-lesson woven into this class. Local history is also on display as we talk about the historical use of northern lakes for ice cutting and refrigeration. Students quickly learn to appreciate the struggle and adversity our predecessors in this region encountered in cutting ice for their summer cooling needs. Times continue to change, but one thing that has remained constant here at Conserve School is experiential and interdisciplinary learning. The Ice cutting lesson has always been an exciting and challenging way to interact with history, climate science, in addition to concepts involving teamwork and leadership development. 

As we have all realized recently, the world is not always as it appears to be. Warmer global temperatures may lead to more ice in one part of the globe, like the Arctic and less in another region, as has been observed in the Great Lakes.

"I hope we can learn lessons from our current global pandemic crisis, and that we can apply those lessons to our fight for the planet." - Michael Salat, History Teacher

Photos contributed by, Jennifer Anderson, Marketing and Enrollment Specialist