Search form

Students Slide to School on Air-Powered Sled




Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
--Physical Science
Social Studies
--Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

A windsled serves as one Wisconsin islands wintertime school bus.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, share with students a U.S. map and ask them to identify the location of the Great Lakes. Ask: Which of the Great Lakes appears to be the largest one? (Lake Superior) What land areas border Lake Superior? (Minnesota to the west, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the south, and Canada [Ontario] to the north and east) If you are able to project images from the Web, you might share this Wisconsin road map. Scroll all the way to the north to point out the location of Bayfield at the tip of the land mass that juts into Lake Superior. Sharing this map information will establish the place" of this weeks News for Kids article.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: air-powered, plowed, engine, houseboat, and resident. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Right after Sean finished shoveling snow from the driveway, a big truck came along and _____ snow right back onto it. (plowed)
  • If you are a _____ of Bay City, you dont need to pay to use its parks and swimming pools. (resident)
  • Park rangers who work in the Everglades travel from place to place on _____ boats. (air-powered) [see airboat]
  • When my uncle retires, he wants to sell his home on the mainland and move onto a _____ . (houseboat)
  • A trailer that large must require an _____ with a lot of horsepower. engine

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Students Slide to School on Air-Powered Sled.

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Built to glide over thin ice, Madeline Islands windsled is 25 feet long and 14 feet wide. It travels about 18 miles per hour. Even though it weighs 9,000 pounds, it travels lighter" because the giant fans force its forward motion. (You might share a picture of the Madeline Island windsled, or you might do the activity suggested below in the Follow-Up Activities section before sharing the picture.)
  • The windsled was built by two brothers who live on the island. Arnie and Ronald Nelson own a local construction business, and they are also the windsled drivers.
  • Lake Superior (see map) is the largest, coldest, and deepest of the five Great Lakes. But at some points in the year -- when the ice is too chunky for a ferry but not quite solid enough to make a road (or ice bridge") for cars and vans -- the windsled serves as a homegrown transportation solution.
  • Its just an everyday thing," student Carrie Nelson, 14, says of the windsled. Its just our life." Asked if he liked windsledding to class, another student, Dylan Griggs, 13, told the LaPointe Journal, No. Its loud, annoying."
  • Once the ice freezes to a depth of 11 inches or more, an ice bridge" is plowed to connect islanders to the mainland. Unlike most roads, this one has no traffic lights, school zones, or pedestrian crossings. When the road is open, students are carried on the 2.5 mile trip to school aboard a minivan.
  • Only middle and high-school students on the island travel to the mainland school in Bayfield. K-5 students attend a two-room school on Madeline Island.
  • The windsled even has its own Web site, Apostle Islands Windsled and Aviation Museum. The Web site includes a photo of the islands original windsled, which was constructed in 1951.
  • Madeline Island is located in Lake Superior, near that northernmost tip of Wisconsin that juts into the lake. The island is the southernmost and largest of the 22 Apostle Islands. [It is the long narrow island on this map.] The island is 14 miles long and 3 miles wide. It is the only Apostle Island that has been developed for residence. According to the 2000 Census, the population of Madeline Island is 246 year-round residents. That number swells in the spring-summer-fall when part-time residents and visitors are there. See some pictures of Madeline Island.
  • The nearest large city is Duluth, Minnesota, 60 miles to the west.

    Comprehension Check

    Recalling Detail

  • How far must students travel on the windsled? (2-1/2 [2.5] miles)
  • In which of the Great Lakes will you find Madeline Island? (Lake Superior)
  • At what time of year do students usually ride the windsled to school? (at the beginning and end of the winter season, when the ice is not thick enough to support cars but is too thick for a ferry to operate)
  • How is the windsled powered? (by two giant fans that push it)
  • How many people can fit aboard the Madeline Island windsled? (20 people)
  • How much does the windsled weigh? (9,000 pounds)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses to the question.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about unique forms of transportation.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Language arts visualizing text. Have students read aloud the paragraph of the news story that describes how the windsled looks. (The windsled looks like a houseboat) After reading, have students draw a quick illustration of the windsled as they visualize it. After students have a chance to show their illustrations, share a photo of the actual Madeline Island windsled.

    Science create your own hovercraft. Follow these instructions for a hands-on activity that will demonstrate how air can power a craft like the windsled. If you dont plan to do the activity with your students, you might share the video so they can better understand the principles behind the air-powered windsled; and so they can try the activity at home. Ask: Do you think someday air might power cars? Share with students this article about an air-powered car that is due to debut in the streets of India this summer.

    Language arts compound words. Ask students to identify the two compound words found in the news article. (windsled, houseboat; some students might identify Bayfield as a compound word [it is] or suggest that school bus should be a compound word [it shouldnt be]) Have students tell which two small words make up each of those compound words. Then have pairs of students work together to create lists of ten compound words. Challenge them to think of compound words that are interesting or not so common. (Here is a good source list of compound words.) After the student pairs complete the task, have them share their lists. Which words do students in the class think were the best (most uncommon or interesting) compound words?

    Math measurement. Let students take their rulers outdoors. Pair up students, provide them with chalk, and have them draw an outline on asphalt that illustrates the dimensions (25 feet long and 14 feet wide) of the windsled. Help students visualize what it might be like to have 20 students aboard" the windsled by letting the class stand inside one of the outlines.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-MEA.PK-2.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
    NSS-G.K-12.3Physical Systems
    NSS-G.K-12.4 Human Systems
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World