Hey! Phooey on the freeze! Bag those bulges of baleful old snow. Throw out the thermometer and chuck those chilblains.

The fourth-graders at Altara Elementary School know that all it takes to create a bit of summer is some imagination, bare feet, exposed midriffs, a tall cool one and a beach towel on which to loll while reading the book of one's choice.One corner of the school became a beach Wednesday and the kids became beach bums - at least for Beat the Winter Blahs Day.

Teachers weren't above trying to fool the weatherman, too. Marguerite Hoover, in white shorts and a blue-and-white striped shirt, put on her shades and relaxed, even though the only sun was a big stuffed paper version in the corner.

The youngsters also played beach volleyball with a gusto that would have made Annette Funicello proud.

"This is the life!" a small voice was heard to exclaim as the children settled down for reading time. All over the room were cool kids, propped against overturned chairs, cuddled in bean bags or flat out on beach towels with their feet waggling in time to the music (Beach Boys. Who else?)

"Yesterday we had a winter day," said teacher Paul Niebuhr. It was, in fact, so very wintry they had trouble getting a snow sculpture to hold together.

Much better to imagine it's summer, was Adam Hanks' conclusion. "Imagining it's warm helps you to feel warmer."

Other fourth-grade teachers involved are Kim Mackay and Rob Kertesz.