The Winter Olympics (Ski Jumping, Curling, Biathlon)

Unlike the events of the first week, which weren’t nearly as good as my description leads you to believe; the events of week two will be placed in my permanent file to be used again in four years.

We participated in ski jumping, curling, and biathlon.

            The ski jumping center consisted of a stack of folded mats with several open mats for the landing area.  Giving students’ permission to jump off an elevated surface is a rare thrill, and greatly aided me in my quest to be the most popular teacher.  I considered sawing off a few tree branches in the parking lot and scattering the twigs around the landing area for an authentic look, but I felt the custodial staff would find that a bit aggravating, so I refrained.  Using cones, students marked their best jumps, and readily took turns sure that each jump would be better then the last.

            Next up was the biathlon.

This event must have been a hit with the all important 6 – 10 year old demographic because oddly, most every class knew what the biathlon entailed.  Among the athletes it is generally agreed upon that the courses in Austria and Sweden are the most physically demanding, but the Akron elementary course is the most technical on the World Cup circuit.  When skis consist of carpet squares and your poles are pool noodles a technical course can pose real problems.  Athletes crashed frequently; there must have been a problem with the imaginary bindings because they often just walked right out of their skis, suddenly their shoe sole was stuck fast to the floor, yard sales were common (when a skier crashes and loses skis and poles its called a yard sale).  Combine this with the fact that the ski poles buckled whenever pressed into action and you have a recipe for disaster. Several students exclaimed, “We need better poles,” as they traversed the course.  In spite of these challenges the students cheered when the targets were hit, and once across the finish line hurried back to the start for another run!

Curling was my personal favorite.  I spent most of my time providing live color commentary on the proceedings.  Since I don’t live in the Arctic, I’m not entirely certain of the rules, but that hardly mattered.  Our goal was to get the ball to stop in the center circle of the gym, and we pursued this goal with wild abandon.  Elementary students are like a light switch, either on or off; they don’t yet posses the dimmer button.  Over and over I used the phrase, “just a bit to much” to describe a ball that was rolled preposterously hard, the two sweepers frantically chasing, as it sailed past the target, out of the curling center and onto the biathlon course, tripping and athlete just before the line.  Alternately, describing a roll that barely completed three revolutions “she asked a lot of her sweepers on that one” I would say.  We don’t yet teach physics at the elementary level, which was readily apparent as student after student swept behind the rolling ball.  I attempted some verbal guidance hoping to remedy the situation, “in front, left, right, brooms up” the more I encouraged the harder they swept, shockingly it made no difference.  Fortunately, a few of the balls are a bit lopsided allowing them to curve miraculously as they slow; I could not have created a better allusion.  Scoring was marked with cheers, high fives and smiles all around.

As I received a hug a student said, “Thank you for making these activities, they were really fun!”  That was better then all the laughs combined, and I knew I had created a lasting memory.  Unfortunately all good things come to and end.  The following week amid questions of biathlon courses and ski jump ramps, I was forced to explain that the Olympics had ended and would not return for four more years.  The memories though will last a lifetime, which is a powerful thought that helps to guide my teaching.  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.

These events occurred during week 2 of our 2014 Olympic Unit.

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