The Olympics (Luge, Speed Skating, Skeleton)

            The Olympic ideals of fair play, good sportsmanship, and friendly competition were on display in the gym and for a few moments the students had Olympic dreams.

Today we will be participating in the Olympic Winter Games, I announced to student cheering, applause, and general merriment.  I never get tired of announcing the day’s activities and being treated as if I have just proclaimed Christmas to occur twice each year.  Recreating the winter Olympics with its many variations of skiing, skating, or zipping down and icy tube on a sled was a bit of a brain teaser.

I was stumped for a bit, not for lack of ideas, but rather too many, as I had notes created for 15 or so events.

  I imagined students practicing individually, before entering events and creating a mini Olympic competition.  In my mind, students were off to the side, wearing stop watches and holding tape measures to record event statistics.  What a wonderful chance for some cross curricular integration.  Then reality hit, I don’t have stop watches, or tape measures, or students who know how to use them.  We wouldn’t have nearly enough time for all that anyway, my brain had gotten carried away.

            And with that, the Olympics came to town.

During the first week we did the Luge, Speed Skating and Skeleton.  The Luge involved a wonderful piece of equipment called a roller racer, similar to a Luge sled only in that it is used feet first.  That was all it took, the students were transported; a few students asked where they could sign up to do the Luge for real.  This lead to a complicated discussion involving Lake Placid, travel times, and me feeling like I had just created a dream only to ruthlessly crush it!  Luckily, our present wintry conditions tossed me a life ring and the conversation was salvaged.  I suggested they build a snow track in their yards, smiles returned, heads nodded, and all was right with the world.  I had gotten caught in the moment thinking they actually needed the real Olympic training center!

            On to the Speed Skating oval, or to those lacking vision, a circle marked by cones.

In my mind it was a wonderful arena, grandstands banking high all around, flags swaying from the rafters, and smooth clear ice.  I mentioned Vladimir Putin had personally dedicated the track declaring it to be, “world class.”  This comment was received with blank stares, but I was entertained by it.  Then one hand shot up, “my dad says Putin is a terrible man!”  At this burst of emotion the other students’ blank faces contorted to show looks of concern and overwhelming confusion.  Yikes, I can see the headlines now…”Elementary teacher is Russian sympathizer, advocates for students being sent to sport camps!”  Things were getting out of hand quick, “back to the ice,” I said, “we’ll use carpet squares for skates” and I began zipping around the ice, swinging my arms in ways which would appall the Dutch, but impressed the students none-the-less, the students nerves calmed and we were back in the Olympic spirit.

            Finally, we arrived at the skeleton course.

I was sure this would illicit a student joke involving bones, alas I was disappointed as none took the bait.  I laid out an IOC approved course comprised of hairpin turns, and a fast straight finish.  “Surely someone among us has a record breaking run in them,” I told the students.  Since confidence is never in short supply at this age, most students looked at themselves knowing they had record breaking ability.   While the others, confused by my statement thought, “gosh I hope I don’t break whatever he’s is talking about.”

The first week was a stirring success, records were set and broken.  Student achievement was marked by good sportsmanship and encouragement for all.  Highly motivated, their energy was boundless, allowing for endless laps around the oval, and down the icy tracks.  Like any quality sporting event, things only got better as competition continued, which lead to an excellent second week.

to be continued…

I teach a version of these Olympics every 4 years, the story is based on events from 2014

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