K - 3 Learning Pages:
Resources for Kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers

 Inquiry: Ice Castle

St. Monica Ice Castle Project

Our Early Learning School (JK - Gr. 1) decided to collaboratively build an ice castle in our school playground area.

To begin this collaboration, we needed to plan together as a staff, to set a date for our actual construction. We knew it would take a few weeks of preparation to get the ice blocks ready.

1. We sent a letter home to parents, asking them to keep their empty 2 liter milk cartons, and begin to start freezing the blocks by filling them with water and a few drops of food colouring. We discovered that it took varying amounts of time for the water to completely freeze through to the center - depending on the outside temperature. Some parents began to freeze them in their freezers rather than rely on frigid temperatures. With each child bringing in ice bricks/blocks, we would have enough to build several walls.

2. The Grade one classes had to estimate the size of the castle dependent on the number of bricks brought in. Each class was polled to find out approximately how many blocks would be brought in on that date. Using lego bricks (2x4), they began to build sample castles to see how big they could make the castle and how many rows high it could be.

3. The day of the actual build, each class had an assigned half hour time to do their portion of the building. We had several parents who offered to stay and support the project build.

4. The grade ones started, with the base row, using a string guide to follow for the foundation row.

5. Once the initial row was laid, the second row was added on. Children found that when they just set them on top of the first block they slid off. Next they tried adding water between the blocks, but the same thing happened.

6. What would keep the blocks from sliding off? Parents and children alike were trying different solutions, when finally one boy discovered that using the wet snow from the base of the blocks, worked perfectly as a glue or mortar. It was like a slurry mixture of very heavy wet snow. They shared that information with the next class, and construction continued.


7. Each class worked together with some children opening the milk cartons, some were bringing out water in buckets, some gathering loose snow from further out in the field and making a pile to access for making slurry. The half hour seemed to by so quickly.

8. Children's mitts were soaked and cold, yet the pride they felt when they finished was wonderful. They knew that they had planned, used trial and error to problem solve, shared information, collaborated, encouraged each other, and worked as a team.

Elaborations were added bit by bit, but as the days warmed, the castle began to disintegrate, and blocks were carried off for smaller play activities.

The last block (in a northern, shaded corner) took a long time to melt - almost lasting till dandelions had begun to bloom against the school wall.