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Too cool for (ICE) school

by Kelsey Spohn / Edmonton Oilers

While school has always been cool, for some lucky children in Oil Country, school has literally been cool this year. ICE School, or as its students have affectionately dubbed it: Incredibly Cool Education, is an Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) initiative run in partnership with Edmonton Public Schools and Northlands. With the assistance of a program coordinator, a week of inquiry-based learning is developed to complement the provincial curriculum as students engage in reading, writing, observing, interviewing and calculating activities in the ICE School classroom, around Rexall Place and throughout Northlands Park.

This season, 25 classes from grades one through nine, hailing from the Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, St. Albert and Elk Island School Boards have taken their in-class skills and brought them down to ice level. The children prepare for their week-long adventure when school kicks off in September.

“The ICE School learning process begins when they receive their journals in September. The students are instantly excited for what’s to come, and during their week at Rexall Place, our students carry this journal to record, reflect and sketch as they move through each day,” said Diane Gurnham, ICE School Program Coordinator. “It’s an invaluable tool for the children who can use this resource long after the program to delve deeper into the topics they explored to help them expand upon their learning.”

It’s not all work and no play, with plenty of fun twists to accompany each lesson. Students participate as detectives in an activity called Seat Sleuths as they learn to navigate and find seats inside the bowl at Rexall Place. They learn about the classic hockey stories of Jacques Plante’s goalie mask and Frank Zamboni too. While they spend time hitting the books, students also hit the ice for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to skate where the pros do. Gone are the glory days of recess, as ICE School kids are rewarded with special viewings of both Oilers and Oil Kings practices for a much-deserved break.

Hockey heroes aside, students discover the behind-the-scenes intricacies involved in hosting games and large events at Rexall Place. This exclusive access teaches them special insight including how refrigeration technicians keep the ice frozen in a warm building and how cameramen and TV trucks backstage are integral for televising Oilers and Oil Kings games.

“Interacting with the individuals responsible for the behind-the-scenes work is always a true highlight for the students,” said Gurnham. “They are so keen to learn and all of the details and happenings truly fascinates and inspires them to ask more questions.”

This week-long educational adventure certainly spurs the imagination and has helped captivate the curiosity of every ICE School student. One of this year’s students summed up why school is incredibly cool for the rest of us: “On our tour we get to see all of Rexall Place and even the secret parts that no one else ever gets to see. I go home and have too many stories to tell.”

While a hockey arena seems a far cry from an actual school, it becomes an important educational facility for kids to learn in a real world environment and that’s exactly what ICE School is; it’s incredibly cool education.

For more information on Oilers ICE School, please visit

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