By Terry Dean
For some River Forest elementary school kids, building a snow man just doesn't cut it. Building a snow fort is way better.
In the eight years since Principal Pam Hyde has been at Lincoln Elementary School, 511 Park St. in River Forest, it's been a popular activity for students during the winter. But this winter, the builders — mostly boys — have become more territorial about their forts. It's not a major issue at Lincoln, nor has it involved any unruly behavior, said Hyde. The school over the years has allowed kids to build them, and still does.
But kids are getting increasingly annoyed when peers knock them over, or worse, snatch some of the snow off the forts to build their own. The structures consist of snow walls — many can be found on Lincoln's playground. But they don't stay up for long. Sometimes, the builders knock down their own.
"They started building them the first good snowstorm we had, but if the kids get too rough, we take a break and then let them go back to building," Hyde said.
However, there's been no snow-fort building in the past week since the blizzard came and went. The students, Hyde said, have been too busy playing in the snow and making snow angels. Some snowmen have been built, and a few other kids have been rolling giant snowballs.
Willard School, on the other hand, doesn't allow snow forts. Snowball throwing or "dunking" — the traditional practice of tackling a buddy — isn't allowed at any of the schools, Hyde noted.
Football is also played but there's too much snow on the playground for kids to be able to run and catch.
As for forts, Hyde's not sure why the boys have gotten so territorial of late.
"I told them, 'You don't own it. I know you built it, but you don't own it," she tells them. "I don't know why or what it is with them. It's just a wall. It's not like it's an igloo or anything."
Overall she believes playing in the snow is fun and healthy for kids.
These are good kids and it can be great fun, and we want them to enjoy it. We just don't want anyone to get upset."