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Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Best School Days Were Snow Days!

So, I have a question for all of you reading this blog entry today - particularly those of you who happen to live in North America, and quite possibly the entire northern hemisphere.

Are you sick of all this snow yet?

I don't know what it is about the winter of 2014, but it has easily been one of the snowiest and coldest winters that I have ever experienced in my own life.  It certainly hasn't been as bad as the winter of 1997/1998, which saw a gigantic ice storm blow through my area knocking out power for several days, but it's been nasty.

(Though, those of you in the Toronto area who experienced an ice storm in December 2013 probably have some idea what the ice storm in 1998 was like for people who lived in parts of Ontario, Quebec, and New York State.)

I mean, just take a look at some of the photos of this winter that I've taken on some of the worst days of this past winter.  The picture below is one that I took on the early morning hours of December 15, 2013.

And, this one was taken just a few days ago on January 27, 2014.  And, before you say anything, I will let you know that this is NOT fog that you are seeing.  It's what we call a "snow squall" (when the wind is so strong that it blows the snow all over the place causing the visibility to be poor and the road to be very slippery.

Now, as terrible as the conditions can be this winter, it is important to note that I live in Canada.  And, in most places in Canada, snow and cold weather is nothing new.  Just imagine how the people in states like Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and the two Carolinas felt upon seeing snow fall for the first time in years, having to try and drive in that stuff.  For kids in Canada, this is just a typical January day.  Down there, the states called a state of emergency and kids actually had to spend the night at school because the roads were deemed too unsafe to travel on.

Like I said, it has been one weird, wacky winter.

But you know what?  I always like to see the silver linings of things.  And, even though this winter has been a very harsh one this year, there are always some good things about this winter.  If you're lucky enough to live in Ottawa, it's estimated that this year's Winterlude should be quite successful.  And, even if you don't, with the record breaking low temperatures, the ice should be plenty solid for ice skating purposes.  And, there's no better way to spend a really cold day than by sipping a nice hot cup of hot cocoa.

But what about if you were in school?  Could the winter months be that much fun in school?

For me...yes.  They were.  And, that's exactly what this blog post is all about.  Fun activities that we did in school on some of the snowiest days of the year.

Now, granted, some of you living in warm climates might not be able to relate to this, but for those of you who have experienced a true blue Canadian winter (I've lived through thirty-two of them), I have some stories to tell you.

For instance, before schools became figuratively covered in bubblewrap so that kids can't hurt themselves or each other, the school playground after a freshly fallen snow was like a winter paradise.  For kids who loved physical exercise and didn't mind climbing, gigantic hills of snow made by the snow plows who plowed our playground made for the perfect snow forts.  They were really easy to climb too.  All we really had to do was use our boot clad feet to chop out support grips as we made our way to the top.  Of course, once we got to the top of the snow hill, there were always a group of mean sixth graders who would throw us off the hill so that they could stake their claim of the snow hill.

(Again, keep in mind that I grew up during a time in which kids were allowed to be kids and climb over things without many repercussions.  We weren't allowed to throw snowballs at each other, but we could throw someone off the top of a three and a half foot snow hill.  Go figure.)

But there were other things that we could do in the school playground if the snow forts weren't accessible.  If we ended up getting ice rain and it made some areas of the playground slippery, it was an awesome thing, because in our elementary school playground, we had this hill that sloped down towards one of the baseball diamonds near the school bleachers.  On days in which we had freezing rain, that hill would be so slippery and slick...the perfect hill to slide down at a fast speed!  And, surprisingly enough, I never did injure myself on that hill.

No, it was that one day in first grade when I was running across the icy hopscotch and four square courts that I got hurt.  Guess who did a faceplant on the number seven square of the hopscotch court and left a bloody mess?  Yep.  I did.  Fortunately, the nose wasn't broken, but it did hurt!

Of course, that was when the snow and ice was tolerable.  What happened on days in which the snow and ice made roads so bad that the buses had to be pulled off the roads? 

Well, naturally, students who relied on the bus to take them to school were forced to stay home.  But unlike the United States, which actually shuts down schools and some small businesses when the weather outside gets frightful, Canadian schools usually remain open unless the power goes out.  And as someone who lived close enough to my elementary school, I was pretty much forced to go to school on so called 'snow days'.

So, you would probably think that I would find it pretty frustrating to be forced to go to school when half of my classmates couldn't make it into school, right?


Truth be told, I was probably one of the few kids who LOVED going to school on snow days.  And, the reasons why are simple.

Number one - Most of the kids who frequently picked on me, harassed me, made me feel bad about myself...well, they all took the bus to school.  And when the buses were cancelled, they didn't show their faces at school.  No bullies = happy me! 

Seriously, by the time I got to my junior high school years, I wished it would have snowed every day.  Even in June.  For snow days meant happy days.  After all, most of the kids I actually liked in school lived close to the school like I did, and when there was a snow day, I actually felt like I was being respected by the other kids in the class.

Number two - We never, EVER followed lesson plans on snow days.  EVER.  You know, I think snow days were the only days in which we were allowed to play computer games during English class.  Snow days were the only days in which we were allowed to play in the gym on non-gym periods.  Snow days were the only days in which we baked chocolate chip cookies in math class.

(Which I suppose does implement some mathematical techniques, as you had to measure the right amounts of sugar, water, and chocolate chips to make the perfect cookie.)

I suppose that while snow days were fun in elementary school, high school snow days were even more fun.  Again, the kids who caused me the most grief in high school all lived in the north end of town.  And since the roads were bad, none of them showed up to class.  Again, win-win situation for me.  But in high school, we were essentially given free reign of the hallways (within reason).  If we wanted to play some jams with the musical instruments, the music room was always open.  If we wanted to practice our best basketball moves and football plays, the gym was where you wanted to be.  If you wanted a quiet place to study, the library was just a staircase away.  Or if you just wanted to satisfy your cravings for Doritos and Diet Coke, well, the school cafeteria was a nice place to hang out as well.

(Truth be told, the only time you would ever find me inside the school cafeteria was on a snow day.  I always went home for lunch and never ate one meal in there.)

Myself?  I personally liked to hang out in the school's computer lab on the third floor.  The Internet may have been sub-standard in 1998, but at the time, it had some really cool interactive games that are now offline as of 2014.  I literally spent an entire school snow day playing a murder mystery game entitled "Who Killed Laura Mitchell", and I remember being so close to solving the whole thing before the school bell rang, dismissing the few students who braved the snow and cold to attend school. 

I never did figure out who did the deed.  The website was pulled a year later.  But if any of you readers did play that game and know who did it...let me know.  Please?

So, that's my retrospective on the fun I had on snow days at school.  What are some of your memories?

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