Winter Activity Guide

Pulling a sled with an ice block to the Ice House

Welcome! Since the Ice Harvest Festival has gone virtual this year, this guide includes activities that you can do as a family/group at home. Some of the activities will give you a chance to talk to and work with a partner or your whole family/group. Some of these activities also involve going outside, so be sure to bring someone with you and ask someone for help with anything you’re unsure about or need help with. Read through this page, and when you’re ready to start, you can print this worksheet.

  1. Find evidence of animal life. Can you see or hear an animal? Can you find tracks or other evidence that an animal has walked past?

2. What plant life can you find? You can find plants that are still growing (tree, bush, grass) and items that are not, like leaves, acorns, and sticks. Can you find at least three different plants? 

3. Make your own tracks in the snow! Leave handprints or footprints in the snow, or use a stick or your fingers to draw out animal tracks. What other ways can you make markings or art in the snow?

4. Locate your favorite item you use outdoors. This could be clothing, such as a winter hat or mittens, or a sled for riding down snowy hills.

5. Search for these four different things that happen because of cold weather: 

  • Cold Noses
  • Your own breath
  • Snowflakes 
  • What else can you find that is affected by the cold?

6. Find water in one of its three forms: liquid (water), solid (ice), or gas (water vapor in the air). As a challenge, find all three!

7. Find 10 colors! Look around and find at least 10 different colors around you.

8. Ask your partner what item reminds them of when they were younger. Can they find something in the house or a picture that reminds them of that item?

blueberry muffins

9. Find an item that reminds you of your partner: something they wear, something they make, or anything that makes you think of them!

10. Make your own tracks on paper! You can use colored pencils, markers, paint, or cut out shapes with scissors. Try making at least three different kinds of tracks.

You can learn about animal tracks in winter from this guide from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

11. What tools do you use at home? At Hanford Mills Museum we use a variety of different tools to harvest and transport ice. The photos below show some of these tools. We also use tools like measuring tapes and hammers.

Think about the different tools that are around your home. What do you use them for? Find three different tools with your partner, and talk about what the tools are and how they are used.

Tools We Use at the Ice Harvest:

Have fun discovering these items and talking about them! We hope to see you next year at the Ice Harvest Festival!

More things to try!

  • Find out how to make a model ice house, with templates and instructions.
  • You can make your own small batch of ice cream using this recipe. We make much larger batches of ice cream on July 4 at our Independence Day Celebration. The ice we harvest from the Mill pond chills the cream to make it into ice cream.
  •  Do you know that salt interacts with water in some interesting ways? You can learn more about salt and water with this experiment.
  • This winter we have plenty of snow on the ground in East Meredith. You can also design and make your own snowflakes to decorate inside. Here is one way to make them

Hanford Mills to offer Virtual Ice Harvest Festival

The region’s “coolest” tradition will continue with free online events and at-home activities

Hanford Mills Museum logo

[Feb. 3, 2021 East Meredith, NY] For more than 30 years, Hanford Mills Museum has held an Ice Harvest Festival to celebrate a historic winter tradition in New York. Though COVID-19 will prevent Hanford Mills from hosting an in-person event, the Museum will offer free virtual events and at-home activities.

“We have the same goal, to highlight the history, science, and traditions of ice harvesting, but will be interacting with people online instead of here at Hanford Mills,” explains Liz Callahan, executive director of Hanford Mills Museum. She notes that the Ice Harvest often brings more than 1000 people to the museum, making it their biggest event. “We will miss having visitors here for Ice Harvest, but hope people will enjoy this new online programming.”

Up until the early 20th century, ice harvesting was an essential winter activity in rural communities. “Before mechanical refrigeration, ice was the only way to keep food cold,” explains Callahan. “Ice blocks were cut from frozen rivers and ponds and then stored until the warmer months.” She said that area farmers used the ice to keep milk and other agricultural products cold, and also as a winter crop to sell.

Winter’s Coolest Crop: Ice Harvesting History and Culture

On Thursday, February 4 at 7 pm, Andrew Robichaud, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University, joins HMM staff Liz Callahan and Kajsa Harley for an online presentation, Winter’s Coolest Crop: Ice Harvesting History and Culture. Robichaud’s book-in-progress, tentatively titled On Ice: Transformations in American Life, is a history of climate, ice, and the ice trade in North America, and explores the cultural and economic ice age in nineteenth-century America. Along with a discussion of the history of ice harvesting in the northeast, they will discuss how Hanford Mills celebrates the historic community tradition of ice harvesting. The program is free. Register in advance at A recording of the program will also be posted to the Hanford Mills YouTube Channel.

Ice Harvesting and Ice Houses Family Program

On Saturday, February 6 at 11 am, Luke Murphy, Hanford Mills education coordinator, will offer a family-friendly online presentation, Ice Harvesting and Ice Houses. He will talk about how ice houses work and experiment with different materials to determine what insulates ice the best. The program is free and you can register in advance at The program will also be posted to the Museum’s YouTube channel. Hanford Mills will also offer a winter activity guide with ideas for families to enjoy at home. The activity guide will be available at on Saturday.  

Ask your Ice Harvest question

Hanford Mills staff will also answer questions about ice harvesting on the Hanford Mills Facebook page. Submit questions through Facebook or to [email protected].

Hanford Mills Museum is collaborating with several nonprofits organizations to offer more online activities.

Ice Harvest Videos premiere February 6

Students from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta have developed three short videos on the ice harvesting process, the science of ice and ice houses, and the water cycle and climate change. They will be available to watch on the Hanford Mills Museum YouTube channel starting on February 6. “The videos are a way for us to show the process of ice harvesting, and also connect to science and history,” says Callahan.

Friday, February 5, 7 pm Science Trivia Night with the Science Discovery Center

The A.J. Read Science Discovery Center and SUNY Oneonta Planetarium are hosting a three-round online trivia game on Zoom on February 5 from 7-9 pm. Participants can play as a team (2-5 people) or play solo. The trivia will be “ice” themed, from glaciers, to ice planets, to the history of ice and refrigeration. Register in advance at

Wednesday, February 17, 6 pm Catskills Winter Trivia

The Catskills Visitors Center will host a virtual trivia event on its Instagram page at 6 pm on Wednesday, February 17.  

A recording of another Virtual Ice Harvest event, a presentation on Bald Eagles by the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society which was held on Feb. 4, will be featured at soon. The DOAS also developed a self-guided eagle trip that people can do on their own. 

Support Local

Callahan said they want to thank the restaurants that have provided soup for the Ice Harvest Soup Buffet and the exhibitors who come to Ice Harvest. “We encourage people to consider ordering takeout and buying from these local businesses,” says Callahan. “We look forward to welcoming everyone back for the Ice Harvest Festival in 2022.”

Local businesses and organizations that have been at the Ice Harvest Festival include: Byebrook Farm, Blue Merle Apiaries, Bakers Grimm, the Cooperstown Distillery, Catharina’s Hats and Mittens, Kortright Handiworks, the Catskill Forest Association, My Woodlot/Watershed Agricultural Council, the Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the A.J. Read Science Discovery Center. Restaurants who provided soup, rolls and cookies for past Ice Harvests include: Alex’s World Bistro, Alfresco’s Italian Bistro, Applebee’s, Autumn Café, Bakers Grimm, Blue Bee Café, Brooks House of BBQ, Cafe Ommegang, Cooperstown Diner, Danny’s Main Street Market, Delhi Diner, Denny’s, Jackie’s Restaurant, Junkyard Bakehaus, Morey’s Family Restaurant, Oneonta Bagel Company, the Otesaga, Simply Thai, SUNY Delhi Hospitality Department, The Tulip and the Rose Café, and TK’s Diner. 

About Hanford Mills Museum

As one of only a handful of operating water- and steam-powered mills, Hanford Mills Museum has earned a place on both the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places. The mission of Hanford Mills Museum is to inspire audiences of all ages to explore connections among energy, technology, natural resources and entrepreneurship in rural communities with a focus on sustainable choices.

Hanford Mills Museum, which  will open for the season on May 15, is located at 51 County Route 12, at the intersection of Delaware County Routes 10 and 12, in East Meredith, NY, 10 miles from Oneonta, and 15 miles from Delhi.

For more information, visit or call 607.278.5744.


CONTACT:       Liz Callahan, [email protected] 607.278.5744