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It’s the first Monday back, and your teacher is asking people what they did over winter break. You sink in your seat, hoping that you’ll slide under the radar, but to no avail. You’re called on. You flush and stutter and say something about doing your homework, while other kids snicker with their cinnamon-colored tans.

Don’t be that guy (or girl).

There are a lot of fun ways to spend midwinter break, and they don’t have to involve empty wallets or plane tickets. School breaks are a good time to try new things that you’ve always wanted to try without having to worry about getting all of your homework done or studying for tests – you can save that for Sunday night.

1. Ice skating. In a conversation with a friend of mine, I was shocked to realize that she’d never been ice skating. Now that I think about it, I can’t even remember the last time I went. A copy of the open skate schedule for the Northtown Center can be found on the website for the Town of Amherst (www.amherst.ny.us/govt/recreation/ice), with ticket and rental prices ranging from $3 to $6. While the weather this winter hasn’t been particularly reliable, if temperatures stay as low as they’re supposed to, you can probably find a frozen pond somewhere – just make sure you chuck a rock at the ice first to ensure that you won’t be taking a swim.

2. Snow-tubing. As an avid skier, the best thing I can think of to do when the temperatures drop is to strap on my boots and hop on the lift. However, for those of you who have never tried skiing or snowboarding, it might not be the best choice for a spur-of-the-moment activity. Snow-tubing is an enjoyable activity that pretty much anybody can do. It doesn’t take a whole lot of skill, and a three-hour ticket is only $16 (or $12 if you happen to be under 42 inches) at Polarwave in Batavia (www.snowtubingny.com/) or $15 for two hours at Colden Tubing Co. in Colden (www.kbski.com/content/pages/tubing).

3. Sports games. Spectator sports can be extremely fun events, especially when they are at a high level. Tickets to professional games, however, can get pretty pricey. I would suggest the high-energy Bandits lacrosse games, but they don’t have any home games during February break. My solution, then, is college games. Whether you are an avid sports fan or just enjoy being in the crowd with your friends, college sports such as hockey and basketball don’t disappoint. Division I teams are scattered throughout the greater Buffalo area, and the chants and cheers led by a youthful crowd make any game an electrifying experience.

4. Volunteering. Many kids don’t think of doing work – and without pay, too – as a very glamorous prospect. What kind of break is it, after all, if you’re not getting a break? If you keep an open mind, though, volunteering can be fun, and a lot of schools require at least some service hours. There’s a certain pride that comes with knowing that you’re helping somebody, and staying positive makes the time fly. Bringing a friend along can make the experience even better, but if you don’t, chances are you’ll make one on the job. Food pantries and soup kitchens can usually use all the help they can get, and midwinter breaks are as good a time as any to lend a hand and chip away at required community service hours without the added daily stress of school.

It’s not difficult to find something fun to do if you put a little effort into it. Even simple things like trying out new restaurants or watching that movie that you’ve always wanted to see can reduce boredom and make you feel like you’re making use of your time. Time off from school is a rare blessing. Take advantage of it, because the next thing you know you’ll be trudging through the halls again, counting down the days until the next break.

Sarah Probst is a junior at Clarence High School.