Toby Briggs's picture
7 snow rules: When snow hits home
Toby Briggs
March 25, 2011 - 4:09pm

It’s inevitable. You will reach down and pick up snow. No matter how old you are, it is contagious and unavoidable. You will crush it and crunch it and turn it into a ball. No matter if it’s ‘inappropriate’ to do these things. Your inner child will want to throw it. Thwack! Bulls-eye! 

Even though it is March, heavy snows returned to our classroom in Yosemite National Park this last week. Forecasted to be a late spring, the promise came through. Even when we moan about the cold and the wet—Snow is a powerful teacher. On days when flakes fall from the sky and play across your face, a lesson piles at your feet. It’s time to learn. Maybe even more than what I have to teach about ecological systems and interconnectedness in Yosemite are the life lessons inherent in snow. 

The rules of the games are really good guidelines for living. 

  • Snow play is fun. All the other rules are explanations of this one simple one. If we live and play in a way that inspires joy and good competition, laughter and cooperation, then it’s a good game. If at any point, you are not having fun, then stop and rethink how to do it differently. 
  • One pack. When preparing your snowball, pack it once. Twice and three times end up being satisfying to make, but hurtful upon delivery, and that violates Rule One. We teach kids not to name call or beat each other up on the playground, but in what ways do we as adults triple pack? Or live and work that packs things too densely? 
  • No head shots. When throwing, you may only hit your fellow teammate below the neck. Heads are important. It’s no fun to get a hard cold snowball to your head. It hurts and causes arguments to break out. In life, we have tools more destructive than snow to employ. When do we aim for the head in order to win? 
  • If you do hit someone in the head—apologize and stand out. This rule means we practice saying “I’m sorry,” and owning our mistakes. I ask students to be honorable, take care of each other, and then take a break. Like life, usually we don’t mean to hurt each other. Someone ducked when you threw and wham-o!, a head got involved. But sometimes we get caught up and forget Rule One, getting so frantic that standing out is a chance to watch the big picture for a moment before joining the game again.
  • Throw from 3 eighth-grader lengths away. Remember what it felt like to launch a snowball and hit your target 20 feet away? The cheers of success I witness make me smile again and again. It isn’t the same rush from 4 feet—because there’s little challenge in that. When do we ask our kids to go long? When do we as adults risk missing our target for the thrill of watching our work hit home and connect? How often do we ask our children to practice learning versus making the grade.
  • Switzerland has remained neutral in so many wars that it seems appropriate to name our snowball-free zone after them. Students who choose to stand here find respite from the crossfire and agree to put down arms. When do you wish for a break from the cross-fire of work and politics? Switzerland is a way to say: “Play hard and rest easy.” Students also know that snow doesn’t enter this zone.  We talk about what it means to respect boundaries.
  • The game ends when you hear me coyote howlAll good things must come to an end … even when spirits were low and hands cold at the beginning of a fight, I am consistently impressed by the rejuvenation that three, five, 10 minutes of play adds to our day. Reckless abandon sits at our learning table—even if only for a moment. Imagine what a snowball fight would look like in your workplace? And the joy that comes afterward. The silly grins, the mischief, the awareness, the sensation of cold snow pressed into life. Thwack! The impact that snow has on our lives is right on target.

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