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Design a Snow Fort
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/12/2017

Snow The following is an installment in "Icebreakers 101: The College Edition", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

If you grew up in an area where there was measurable snow fall, it is likely that you played in the snow. As a kid, many of us in cold climates made snowmen, snow angels, and snow balls. Let us not forget the iconic snow fort. What better place than a snow fort to use the snow balls?

There is much more to making a snow for than piling snow. At its most formidable manifestation, the snow fort can be an impenetrable citadel. The snow fort, well-staffed and adequately armed, can serve as a key link in safety in an area. It almost sounds like strategic points in a prison.

None of this is to inspire fears of a foreign invasion or imminent snow wars. But in a kid’s realm, those scenarios are not out of the question. The purpose of this exercise is to get corrections students to think in terms of plant safety and to employ the ABC’s of security.
  1. Break the class into teams of four or five.
  2. Give them the objective: Design a snow fort on paper that will be difficult for a group of four or five ‘enemies’ to capture.
  3. Teams in this will only be allowed to build with shovels and hands. Therefore, realistic dimensions are expected. In other words, you cannot expect that a 20 foot tall, four-sided monolith can be built in an hour with just shovels.
  4. Note that this is all on paper, so it can be done all year round. Teams are not building actual snow forts. (That is, unless there is snow, you have the inclination, and everyone has hats and gloves. This is up to each instructor, of course. If you seriously consider this an exercise to actually do in a snowy field, consider liability policies for your higher education institution.)
  5. Tell teams that they must consider what the opposing team(s) might do to capture your fort.
  6. Tell them that they may build this snow fort in a 100 x 100 foot area. They may tactically place trees, hills, buildings, and other objects wherever they wish.
  7. Insist that this must be an aerial drawing.
  8. Let teams work on the paper design. Give a few minutes.
  9. Each team in turn must produce a larger version of the paper plan on the board. One person from the team can be the draftsperson and do the drawing. Another person can describe what is going on the board and the rationale for reach element.
  10. Instructor can ask key questions about security:
    1. Were blind spots considered?
    2. What shape was agreed upon?
    3. Were there tunnels?
    4. Did you consider posting team members as lookouts?
    5. Was there an arsenal of snowballs?
    6. What would you do to protect the fort if two groups attacked at once from different directions?
    7. How is this like prison operations?
There are many lessons of safety to be found in child games such as snow fort. We can learn of resources, staff deployment, weak points, and architecture functioning in our security scheme.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence". The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

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