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Danger! Keep off the ice!

To warn about the dangers of venturing on to frozen water.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To warn about the dangers of venturing on to frozen water.

Preparation and materials

  • The points in section 4 could be displayed, together with a suitable image.

  • Suitable images could be used to accompany the reflection.


  1. Refer to the wintry conditions. Reflect that snow and ice bring both delight and danger. Explain that the story you are about to tell is based upon an accident that actually happened on one very cold winter’s day.
  2. Tell the following story in your own words, emphasizing its drama.

    It was freezing cold, but the sky was blue. The frosty trees and snowy paths made the park look like a winter wonderland. Amy and Adam enjoyed walking through the crunchy snow. Their large dog, Merlin, had great fun bounding around and jumping up to try to catch the soft snowballs that Amy and Adam threw towards him.

    It was so cold that even the lake had frozen. Ice stretched all the way across.

    Adam began to laugh. ‘Look, Amy,’ he said. ‘The poor ducks haven’t any water to swim in!’ The ducks were standing on the ice in the middle of the lake.

    Merlin saw the ducks too. He barked and ran towards them.

    ‘Stop!’ Amy cried. ‘Merlin, come back!’

    But Merlin was too excited to hear her instruction. He was just two years old. Merlin loved chasing ducks and didn’t understand the danger he was in. Out across the ice he ran.

    ‘Come back, Merlin!’ both the children shouted. Merlin stopped for a moment, and looked at them, but then carried on running over the ice.

    Next, a terrifying thing happened. The ice around Merlin broke. In a moment he was struggling in the freezing water. Amy and Adam watched in dismay as Merlin tried again and again to get back on to the ice but because it was so slippery he couldn’t reach safety.

    ‘I’m going to help him,’ said Adam, running towards the lake edge.

    ‘No! No!’ shouted Amy. ‘Stop! You’ll fall in as well! Give me your phone.’ 

    Adam looked at Merlin struggling in the water. He also saw the frightened look on Amy’s face. She shouted again. ‘Adam, give me your phone!’ 

    Adam ran back and did as she said. Quickly, Amy dialled 999 and explained to the person who answered what had happened. Most importantly, she carefully described exactly where they were.

    ‘Stay where you are,’ said the voice. ‘Don’t go on to that ice. We’ll get to you as soon as possible.’

    Can you imagine how Amy and Adam felt? As they watched, they could see that Merlin was getting more and more cold and tired. He was struggling to keep his head above the water.

    Although it took just a few minutes, it seemed ages before the fire and rescue vehicle arrived. Quickly, the fire-fighters put on warm, waterproof suits and prepared an inflatable boat, which they pushed on to the ice. Merlin was about ten metres from the bank. He couldn’t get into the boat but the rescuers broke a path through the ice and guided him towards dry land. Then they helped him to struggle from the water and wrapped him in a silver-foil blanket to keep him warm. They gave each of the children a blanket too. Amy and Adam were both shaking with cold and shock.

    Amy and Adam hugged Merlin, who looked very sad and sorry for himself. However, after a check-up at the vets and one or two of his favourite doggy treats, he soon cheered up! 

    The very next day, the children went with their dad (and with Merlin) to say a big thank you to the fire-fighters.

    So this story has a happy ending – but it could all have been so very different.
  3. Invite the children to consider what would have happened if Adam hadn’t listened to Amy and had gone on to the ice to try to rescue Merlin. Almost certainly, both Adam and Merlin would have died in the icy water.

    Say that in December 2010 a dog called Merlin was actually rescued from a frozen lake in Cambridgeshire. His owner phoned for help instead of trying to rescue his pet. If Merlin’s owner had gone on to the ice both would have lost their lives.
  4. Conclude by inviting the children to consider how they can enjoy winter, but stay safe near frozen water. Emphasize that:

    –  no one should ever go on to frozen lakes or ponds
    –  pets should be kept on a lead near to frozen water
    –  if a pet or person gets into trouble, don’t go on the ice
    –  quickly fetch help; if you can, dial 999.

Time for reflection

In a Church school you may wish to observe that ‘rescue’ is one of the themes of Advent. Christians believe that Jesus has come to save and rescue humanity. Jesus teaches and shows the importance of helping one another.

Invite the school community to be thankful for the work of local fire and rescue services.


'Snow Song’ (from Songs for Every Season, Out of the Ark Music)
‘In the bleak midwinter’

Publication date: December 2011   (Vol.13 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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