PARIS — A group of Oxford Hills Middle School students have built  a temporary snow shelter in the football field that maintains 32-degree temperatures, no matter how cold it gets outside.

The 8-foot-wide, 10-foot-long and about 5-foot-tall structure was built over a two-week period by students in the outing club and contains a couple of hundred cubic feet of snow. It will hold six people.

Although it looks like an igloo, it is actually a quinzhee, said Lyndsey Smith, lakeside coordinator at the Bryant Pond 4-H learning center where many elementary students in Oxford County school districts go in the fall for environmental classroom instruction. They also offer after-school classes in the winter.

The lessons vary by the school and staff members teaching, she said, but they include tracking, alternative energy, gardening and plant starting, shelters, fire, first aid, wildlife, cooking, photography, snowshoeing, crafts, geology, geocashing and others topics.

Smith said the Oxford Hills Middle School Outdoor Club is new this year and was formed by students interested in the outdoors. As part of their yearlong outdoor classroom activities, the students took several backpacking and canoeing trips this past fall, with another scheduled for April.

This winter the group took on the task of building the snow shelter. which is made from piling up snow rather than building blocks of snow that is used in an igloo.

“The quinzhee that we started last week is a temporary shelter that people can use for fun in their yards, or as a base camp when out on a winter expedition,” Smith said. It is not a good choice for a shelter in an emergency situation unless it has already been made because it takes several hours to pile the snow up and a lot of energy to complete, she said.

For a while during its recent construction, the middle school shelter resembled a porcupine as students put twigs about four inches into the mound of snow to mark where the interior of the structure would be dug out.

“The goal is to hit the sticks in every direction. When we hit the sticks you stop shoveling,” Jacob Michaud of Hebron said as students took turns digging inside the shelter, scooping it out to about four inches beneath the twigs.

The opening of the shelter was dug near the football field sign and a small knoll. “It’s so the wind won’t hit us,” student Chris Bates said.

Smith said the intent is to have the students complete the task and feel a sense of accomplishment that they have gained the skills to duplicate the shelter at home on a snow day or the weekend with friends. Most importantly, she said, the goals is to get the students active outside during the cold weather.

Smith said the 4-H learning center is also starting two new programs in the Oxford Hills School District at both the Paris Elementary School with fifth-grade students and another at the middle school.

The mentoring and technology program is called Tech Wizards-Maine. Teachers will work with students to help build skills and aspiration in science, technology, engineering and math and to develop an ethic of service and civic engagement, Smith said.

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