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Rink Creation and Recreation

February 27, 2023 | By Emilie Jacques

$20,000 Grant Provides Funds for Student Built Ice Rink in Mohawk

Hockey and ice skating are an important part of the culture of Michigan’s Copper Country, so much so that the oldest indoor ice rink in the entire world is none other than the Calumet Colosseum. Traditions of skating for leisure and competition have been carried over and loved for many generations, persisting today as a beloved local sport and pastime.

Thanks to a $19,989 grant from the Portage Health foundation, students and faculty at Horizons Alternative High School were able to build and maintain a brand-new outdoor rink on the school’s property.

The project was intended to address health issues and equitable access in the area. While there are many indoor rinks in the area, ice time is hard to acquire and often out of one’s budget. This outdoor rink is free to use and open to the public, freeing up space in other rinks.

Childhood obesity rates have increased since the pandemic, and the rink provides an opportunity for people, especially students, to get outdoors for exercise, and off their technology. In addition, the school hopes to foster community relations with the residents of Keweenaw County, as the school’s rink is available to everyone.

“This is a dream come true for us as a school,” explained Darren Kinnunen, the principal at Horizons, and writer of the grant proposal. “(The students) like to get out, do some work, put together the nets, put together the rink, and do some flooding and scraping.”

Hands-On Learning a Focus at Horizons

This project is one of many hands-on learning experiences offered through Horizons. This model of learning, in addition to a trauma-informed approach, puts students first, and has allowed some students to see academic success for the first time in a long time.

Students can choose electives, a form of hands-on experiential learning that they can take into situations outside of school. This year, students had the opportunity to choose building and maintaining the ice rink on the school’s property.

They learned valuable team skills while constructing the rink, responsibility and accountability while maintaining the rink, and management skills for public access.

“I like working on it because the more people that get more enjoyment out of it, the more I feel like I’ve fulfilled what I wanted to achieve,” said Tyler Pittman, a student at Horizons.

Keweenaw Community Invited to Participate

This is the pioneer year for the ice rink, and it comes with a steep learning curve. Horizons plans on taking this learning experience and improving the rink next winter, continuing the project-based model and having fun learning about real-world challenges and setbacks, as well as the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

This type of learning also teaches students valuable lessons in giving back to the community and working together. The rink is open to both students and community members, encouraging citizens to get some exercise and enjoy. The rink is open on weekdays from 4 to 10 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

If you are interested in getting involved, consider donating old equipment like skates and sticks. If you would like to make a monetary donation, the school hopes to add heaters for the pavilion, rubber mats, and a base supply of equipment that can be used.

Contact Darren Kinnunen at (906) 337-4611 or to learn how.

Emilie Jacques

Emilie Jacques

"I graduated from Michigan Tech with a B.S. in Psychology, a minor in Communication Studies, and a minor in Media Production. I love the outdoors and DnD." You can reach Emilie at