Out & About: Build an Igloo, Learn About the Science of Snow at the Montshire

  • Groups participate in the annual Igloo Build at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. The annual event will take place this Saturday.

Valley News Calendar Editor
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Norwich — The Montshire Museum of Science’s annual Igloo Build has been expanded this year to include “the science of winter.”

In addition to (or instead of) building an igloo this Saturday, visitors to the museum can take an animal tracking workshop, snowshoe on winter trails and experiment with ice at the Science Discovery Lab.

The event, which has been taking place for more than 25 years, is well attended.

“We’ve had people asking about it since last August even,” said Trish Palao, the marketing and communications manager at the museum. Last year, more than 1,000 people visited the museum on the day of the igloo build.

The Montshire is expanding the event, in part, because of the winter conditions.

“The weather is never really a sure thing,” Palao said. While there will be enough snow for igloos this year, a few years ago the event was canceled because snow was in short supply. “It’s great for us to create opportunities beyond that.”

It also allows for more chances to educate. In one of the ice experiments, people will combine salt and ice to create frost. In another, people can move toy cars along a cold track to learn about how ice, salt, sand and other materials affect roads.

On Wednesday, Mike Fenzel, a science educator and program manager at the museum, was hard at work creating big rectangular slabs of snow that will be cut into blocks for building igloos.

“They’re going to be 20 feet long to 30 feet deep and 1½ to 2 feet tall,” he said in a telephone interview. Recent weather conditions will impact the quality of the snow. “The water content will be a little bit higher than we’d like,” Fenzel said. “We’ve done this with much less snow on the ground.”

Those who partake in the challenge will be under the watchful eye of Bert Yankielun, an engineer who authored the book How to Build an Igloo and Other Snow Structures.

“By the end of the day we have a nice little village scattered throughout the back,” Fenzel said. “We had over a dozen real igloo structures last year.”

And while the educational aspect is clear, there are other benefits as well.

“It’s just come out and make friends with winter,” Fenzel said. “Just seeing those groups work together and accomplish that, it’s pretty cool.”

Editor’s note: The igloo build itself takes place from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; winter animal tracking, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; winter snowshoe (with snowshoes available to borrow), 2-5 p.m.; the four sessions of ice experiments are at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Activities are free with admission: children, $12; adults, $15; children under 2, free. For more information, call 802-649-2200 or visit www.montshire.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.