STEAM Saturday – Sugar Cube Igloos! (1/6/2024)

Sugar Cube Igloos

Sugar Cube IgloosWinter is here, and we know many of you and your kiddos are waiting for that first snowfall of the season! Snow is magical – it turns the world into a wonderland. But it’s also magical for another reason… The Inuit people figured out how to use snow as a building material! Today, we’re going to put on our engineering hats to learn how to build igloos!

The word “igloo” comes from the Inuit word “iglu,” which refers to all houses made by the Inuit people, not just the round snow houses we think of when we hear the word. Snow igloos were typically built at Inuit hunting sites, and were designed to keep the hunters as warm as possible. The shape allowed the cold air to stay at the bottom, while warm air from a fire in the center of the structure rose upwards, reaching the hunters, who slept in terraced beds that were raised off the ground. A hole in the top of the structure allowed smoke to escape. This incredible feat of engineering was made from compacted snow cut into bricks – pretty amazing!

You can also use this activity to teach your child about arctic animals, like arctic foxes, polar bears, and arctic hares. You and your child can do some research to learn about the different animals who live in arctic environments, then build an igloo to keep them safe from the cold!

Here’s what you’ll need to build your igloos:

  • Box of sugar cubes (one per child)
  • White Paper
  • Paper Plate
  • White play dough to fill in the gaps (optional)
  • Arctic animal figures or cut out pictures

Find a flat surface on which to build your igloo. Explain to your child how an igloo is built. Igloos get their strength from their overlapping block design. The snow gets smoothed over so that there are no gaps except for the entrance and the vent at the top. The white play dough can be used to smooth over and cover the gaps if you want to go the extra mile.

Here’s a video you can show your little engineer so they can learn how igloos are built:


Sugar Cube IgloosPlace your arctic animal figures or cutouts in the center of your paper plate and draw a circle around them. This will serve as the perimeter of your igloo. Now, start building! Each layer of sugar cubes should be slightly smaller than the last, which will cause your walls to start closing in. When your walls get as close together as possible, use a piece of your white paper to create a cover for the hole in the top – or you can leave it open like the Inuits did!

Once you’re done building, it’s time to test your igloo’s strength. Start by seeing if you can knock it over by blowing on it. If it is still standing, see if it can withstand and stronger “wind gust” caused by a fan or hair dryer. If it falls over, ask your child how they can adjust their building technique to make the igloo stronger, and have them rebuild.

Check out the full activity and more information about igloo engineering from The Salty Mamas HERE!

As always, get as creative as you want, and above all, have lots of fun learning together!

We’ll see you right back here next Saturday for another STEAM Saturday activity!  Scroll through the rest of our website to learn how Critchlow Adkins is Building Brighter Futures for the children and families we serve!

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