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February 14, 2013

Welcome to my quinzhee

Port students use blizzard to learn the science of snow


“We had to wait to make an entrance,” student Nicholas Fenner said. “Overnight, the crystals went back together.”

Using sticks inserted into the top of the quinzhees to a depth of about a foot, students began the digging phase of their project yesterday afternoon. They were advised to dig evenly as they went along as opposed to building a tunnel into the structure that could cause instability. When they came across a tip of an inserted stick, they moved their digging to another area of the interior so as to create an even ceiling depth all around.

On the third day of work scheduled for today, they will learn the most important thing about emergency snow forts — to dig the entrance about a foot lower than the cave floor so cold air will be pushed out and warm air will be allowed to rise and keep inhabitants toasty warm inside.

While igloos have been known to maintain a temperature of up to 61 degrees, Reynolds said a quinzhee can get as warm as 34 degrees when body heat begins to circulate.

“I thought it was going to be freezing,” a surprised Jess Puleo said after going inside.

“To me, it was warmer than on the outside,” Madeleine Clemente said.

“It’s a 10-degree difference (than the outside) at least — perhaps even more,” Reynolds told his students. “That’s something we’re going to monitor (today) with thermometers.”

Reynolds said the ability to create a warm space out of a cold substance is based on the unique heat capacity of water that allows it to become an insulator. While the process can be explained in the classroom, he said there’s something about going out into the back fields and seeing the process at work that cements the knowledge with students forever.

That’s the beauty of the place-based model, which takes advantage of the place where you live to teach lessons, Reynolds said.

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