The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 16, 2013

Milk-jug "igloo" changes up winter in Mount Olive classroom

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — One by one, quiet as mice, the first- and second-graders crawled outside the big, round, plastic structure in the back of Miranda Dittmer’s classroom at Mount Olive Lutheran in Mankato.

And they just kept on coming, like a long string of scarves being pulled out of a magician’s sleeves. All of Dittmer’s 20 students fit inside the plastic structure, which had been built just for them by their teacher over winter break out of 600 donated milk jugs.

Dittmer, whose combined classroom includes first- and second-graders, wanted to add some interest to the room. Her solution — a giant igloo. Massive. Made out of empty 2-gallon milk jugs. Well, most are empty.

“Some of the milk jugs aren’t rinsed out as much as I’d like,” she said. “If they were to open one up, it would really, really stink.”

The stinky milk came into play when going over the three igloo rules written on the outside of the structure: Don’t lean on the walls, don’t stick anything in the holes in the walls, and don’t open any containers.

But the kids were so curious, Dittmer took them outside and gave some of them a whiff.

“I gave them a lesson on what stinky milk smells like,” she said.

Since October, when people got wind of Dittmer’s plan for the igloo, church members, students and others dropped off tons of empty milk cartons. She said many days when she got to school there were 10-15 empty jugs outside of her room waiting for her.

Dittmer and her husband constructed the igloo with a hot glue gun over winter break. When the kids got back to school and saw it in the classroom, they were pretty impressed, Dittmer said.

“The first one came in and just said, ‘What is that? I didn’t think it would be that big,’” she said.

Olivia Woller, 7, said she was pretty excited to see the new fort-like structure in the room. Her reasons are in line with the rest of the class.

“It’s fun,” Olivia said.

Dittmer said she’ll be doing a lesson on habitats, which will include ones in the arctic. So the igloo will provide a nice visual for the unit.

But really, it’s just for fun, she said.

“I was looking for ways to change things up a little bit in the winter,” she said.