Polar Plunge
Andrew Deaett, Science Teacher

When Big Donahue Lake first freezes each fall, students at Conserve School don life jackets and close-toed water shoes, and submerge in the lake's frigid waters. CS19 joined the ranks, taking the polar plunge after a full day of Earth Fest workshops. After the workshops ended and the sun was beginning to set, students descended upon the LRC, towels in hand, and nervous excitement in the air.

Big Donahue Lake had frozen over almost completely the night before Earth Fest, as the overnight low marked a chilling 3 degrees Fahrenheit. To access the frozen lake, Teaching Fellow Paul Karpinski, Assistant Director of Student Life Donelle Scaffidi, and I took out a rowboat earlier in the afternoon. Using a variety of tools, including ice saws, spuds, and a shovel, we cleared the ice from a small area near the boat launch, just big enough for three students to plunge together. After taking the plunge, once or several times, students returned to the Lowenwood Recreation Center (LRC) for hot showers, dry clothes, snacks, and hot drinks. 

The polar plunge is a celebration of the arrival of winter. In Wisconsin’s Northwoods, winter brings chilling temperatures reaching 40 below zero Fahrenheit, short days with the sun lazing low on the horizon, and feet upon feet of lake effect snow. At Conserve School, we spend time embracing all that winter has to offer. Many of us enjoy winter by skiing the campus trails, ice skating on Big Donahue Lake, and venturing into the neighboring Sylvania Wilderness to observe wildlife tracks. Others enjoy trying to howl for wolves at night, cozying up to a fire, reveling in the silence of the woods, and the wondrous starry skies over Big Bateau Lake.

Winter is an invitation to slow down, and to be grateful for all that is in our lives. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about winter by poet Mary Oliver:

"Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”

Photos contributed by Alex, CS19 (Fall 2019), Loveland, OH.

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