With rain and temperatures in the 40s, it's hard to imagine that a Chicago winter is right around the corner. The city is an amazing and beautiful site after a fresh layer of snow, but the wind can be bitter, the snow piles eventually get icy and dirty, and the sun hides away for what seems like months. Then, there are the challenges of parking after everyone in the neighborhood has claimed their spot with a lawn chair, milk crate or spare tire ( a practice endorsed by our mayor).
Grown-ups get grumpy and tired of the cold and the gray, but children are always excited after a snowfall. At Lab School, we go outside nearly everyday and since teachers schedule and supervise their own recess times, we must also be prepared to endure the weather. Although it takes my class at least 20 minutes to get dressed with snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens, the excitement is contagious. Playing in the snow with my students makes winter recess bearable and fun. We are lucky to have a great sledding hill, the Midway Plaisance, right across the street. How many jobs let you spend an hour of your workday sledding, building snowmen, or making snow angels with a group of seven-year olds?
While browsing the school library for winter books, I came across one called Recess at 20 Below. Although the weather's in Chicago has been warm, I decided to share it with my students last week right before our winter vacation. Cindy Lou Aiilaud, a physical education teacher from Delta Junction, Alaska, wrote and photographed this charming tale of recess in Alaska from a child's perspective. Once the snow and cold do arrive here, I know a couple of my students will complain about going outside. I will remind them of Alaska where there are only three hours of daylight in the winter and snow is on the ground from September to April, and of the children, who despite frozen eyelashes, still play soccer, build snow forts and go outside when it's 20 below. Maybe a Chicago winter won't seem so bad.