Westport youngsters build themselves an igloo

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A chilly reception awaits visitors to Westport Elementary School.

Right there in the main entrance lobby stands an igloo, a snow-white structure big enough to hold bunches of elementary school-sized occupants.

Although snow has been abundant this winter, this igloo is built of plastic milk jugs — loads of them.

"Well, they don't melt," is one advantage of this unusual building material, said Kylie Ouellette who works with the Citizens for Citizens after-school program at Westport Elementary.

She said she was browsing the internet in search of something fun and different for the 40 or so youngsters ages 5 to 12 who participate in the after-school program there.

The search led her to milk jug igloos.

"Right from the beginning it was a huge hit," Ms. Ouellette said.

Youngsters and their parents started by collecting cleaned milk jugs — in short order they had the 500 they needed — people stopped by with carloads.

Labels were peeled off those jugs that still had them and any creases and indentations were pushed out.

"Even the youngest found jobs to do — everyone pitched in," she said.

The structure's base shape was drawn onto its cardboard floor and construction began. Hot glue holds each row to the next.

"Because they children aren't here that long each day, it took awhile — about three months," Ms. Ouellette said. The bigger it got, the more excited the builders became.

And recently the final jugs were attached and their igloo was complete.

Ms. Ouellette said she is amazed at how well it turned out.

"The shape came out right and it is very strong" — a good introductory physics lesson into the advantages of a dome structure.

A double row of smaller but sturdier white Hood milk jugs cap off the doorway nicely and a red and white north pole stands by the entrance.

The youngsters "love playing in it," Ms. Ouellette said. And because light comes through the jugs, it can be a nice place to bring a book and read. "They are discovering new uses every day for the igloo."

She said she isn't sure how long it will stay in the lobby — "As long as possible, as long as they'll let us." And later on, it should get good use in their summer program.

Moving the igloo would require radical surgery. It doesn't weigh all that much but, at 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide, won't fit through any of the doors and would have to be cut into pieces..

Beyond the fun of playing inside the igloo, Ms. Ouellette said, is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with starting with a pile of milk jugs, "taking it step by step and building something that came out really well … They are all very proud of their igloo."

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