Winter 101 for students new to Minnesota from warm countries

What if you had no conception of how cold Minnesota winters can get? That’s the dangerous situation facing many students who recently moved to Minnesota from warm countries.

After a student almost lost some toes last winter, a teacher at Harding High School in St. Paul decided students need some winter education. He started a winter preparation class for students newly to Minnesota.

“She got severe frostbite on all of her toes from walking from her house to her friends’s house when it was probably twenty below,” Matt Ingersoll, the teach behind the winter curriculum, told Fox 9.

In front of a class of refugees from Iraq, Thailand, Myanmar, and Somalia, Ingersoll started his winter curriculum Thursday afternoon — explaining that students need to dress with coats, hats, gloves, and other layers. He also created an exercise for students to learn the difference between the flu and common cold.

“It becomes a safety factor that I think we need to take on as educators,” Ingersoll said, adding that he and the school nurse spent hours developing a curriculum that was both helpful, and easy for the students still learning English to understand. 

A few students who've been in Minnesota longer recalled their first winter here to Fox 9, one saying “I remember how hard it was for me.” Another added that she had never seen snow before and felt odd wearing a “really large jacket” at first.

In addition to learning the new climate, the students are also learning a new language and culture. Many come from families with little means to purchase winter gear. Harding High School’s student council is collecting winter coats, and other gear for these students.

“They’re not prepared for the winter at all,” Zena Vue, the vice president for student council, told Fox 9, and said the school needs all sizes.

Harding High School is accepting winter coat and gear donations at their front office. Additionally, any businesses or organizations that would like to coordinate can e-mail