Science on Ice

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Whitefish Middle School fifth-grader Sienna Thrasher shoots a puck from a slingshot recently at Stumptown Ice Den during the Science on Ice program. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

The ice rink can be a great place to learn about science.

Students can learn about the properties of water — how a Zamboni smooths the ice. They can put Newton’s second law of motion to practice — using a slingshot to slide different size hockey pucks across the ice to see firsthand how the different masses of the puck change the distance it will travel.

Students from Whitefish Middle School recently got the chance to spend some time at the Stumptown Ice Den learning about science and also doing a little ice- skating through the Science on Ice program.

Whitefish fifth-grade teacher Keith Meehan praised the field trip.

“It had the perfect balance of academics, hands on learning and physical education,” he said.

The Science on Ice program, which has been operating for the last nine years in Moscow, Idaho, made a recent visit to Whitefish.

Vita Wright assisted in bringing the program to Whitefish. Wright, who works for the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, was familiar with the program because the volunteer instructors are her colleagues at the same agency in Idaho.

“It develops a passion for science,” she said. “I think it helps budding scientists learn about a career path with the forest service.”

Pete Robichaud, one of the instructors for Science on Ice, said the program has become very popular for field trips for fifth- and sixth-grade classes.

“It’s interactive,” he said. “The goal is to introduce them to the science and combine that with physical education from the ice skating.”

Teachers are also given follow up activities to take back to the classroom to continue the learning.

The program, run out of the Palouse Ice Rink, is funded by grants and corporate sponsors. After receiving a 2016 grant from the U.S. Forest Service, organizers have been looking into expanding the program.

For more information on Science on Ice, contact Wright at vwright@fs.fed.us.

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