By Elizabeth Goussetis
At Taylor Road Elementary, three students try to make their way across the gym on the same pair of makeshift skis.
“Right! Left! Right! Left!” their classmates cheer them on.
The three boys traverse the gym on a pair of long wooden blocks with three straps.
This is the cross-country skiing event, one of six events in the Winter Olympic competition physical education teacher Kathy Brown is hosting at Taylor Road and Slate Ridge elementary schools.
In another event, Tia Wilson and Jessica Ghee slide across the gym on a bobsled made of scooters and gym mats, with teammates Aaren Wolfel and Caleb Smiley pushing from behind.
“Every time we have the Winter Olympics I always do this,” said Brown. “It’s my way of bringing awareness to the world event of the Olympic Games.”
The Olympics teach lessons like sportsmanship and teamwork. For example, seeing the athletes congratulate each other after competition is a positive example.
“I tell the kids it’s important to appreciate other people’s talents,” Brown said.
While the 2014 Winter Games are going on in Sochi, Russia, Reynoldsburg students are competing in six events: hockey, cross-country skiing, curling, skeleton, bobsled and biathlon. The events are modified to be done in an elementary school.
For the skeleton, kids lay on their stomachs on two scooters and navigate through a course in the gym. In the biathlon, first and second graders walk across the gym on “big feet” and then roll a ball to knock down pins (third and fourth graders shoot a Nerf bow and arrow). Curling would normally be played on a sheet of ice, but the students are aiming for a target on the gym floor. In hockey, students hit nine rapid-fire shots into an empty goal and tally up the highest number of goals.
Why nine? Because that’s how many pucks Brown has.
“I work with what I’ve got,” she said.
The kids learn about the Olympic Oath and the Olympic Creed, and Brown peppers the week’s announcements with fun facts about the Olympics, such as who always enters the stadium first in the opening ceremony (Greece, because it was the birthplace of the Olympic games), and how the biathlon got its name (because it combines two sports).
Some of the students watch the games at home on television and try to figure out what their teacher has planned for them. Brown said snowboarding seems to be the most popular event among her students, along with ski jumping.
“Playing in the snow is something they can relate to and some of them snowboard,” Brown said.
One boy said definitively, though, that his favorite event is curling.
Like Olympic athletes representing their countries, the students compete as a team against the other classes in the same grade. Brown takes the three fastest times for each class and averages them. This teaches kids to perform their best even when they aren’t going head-to-head with their competition from the other classes.
“Sometimes it’s hard for kids to understand, when they’re racing against the kids in their own class,” she said. “I tell them, you want everyone in your class to have an awesome time.”
The students will finish their games around the same time the Sochi games end, and Brown concludes the two week lesson with a medal ceremony, with a representative from each grade standing on a podium and having their photo taken.