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Students have fun, contemplate sportsmanship during Central Winter Olympics!

More than 5,000 miles away in Beijing, some of the world’s greatest athletes competed in the Winter Olympics this month. Meanwhile, in downtown Ferndale, Central Elementary School’s students competed in their own version of the games. 

Central may not have an ice rink for speed skating, a track for luge or a halfpipe for snowboarding, but P.E. teacher Becky Lee came up with some creative substitutes so her students could join in the Olympic fun. And at the same time, students learned about the significance of the games, as well as important lessons about sportsmanship and respect. 

“I just think it’s a really unique event,” Lee said of the Winter Olympics. “The whole world is watching, it’s so unifying.” 

Lee, who’s taught P.E. at Central for eight years, last had her students compete in makeshift Winter Olympic activities in 2018, when the adult Olympics were held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 

Each class started their Winter Olympics with a torch baton relay. Lee created “torches” by stuffing red, yellow and orange paper into the cups of plungers. Students “skated” across the gym and back by sliding on pieces of fabric, while holding the torch upright. 

After the opening ceremony, students rotated between four ice-free renditions of classic Winter Olympics sports while the classic John Williams Olympics theme blasted over the gym speakers: bobsled, hockey, curling and cross-country skiing. Students did the latter event in a similar sliding-on-fabric way as the torch relay, but they used pool noodles as ski poles. 

Curling and bobsled relied on classic P.E. four-wheel scooter boards. In curling, students tried to push the scooters gently and accurately onto a square on the gym floor marked by tape. The DIY bobsleds were large padded surfaces placed on top of a few scooters, which students pushed and jumped upon to simulate the rush of a downhill race. 

Hockey was the simplest event to replicate: Students were given plastic sticks and tried to slap a beanbag puck into the goal, Gretsky-style. 

In between the torch relay and the rotation of games, Lee read aloud an abridged version of the Olympic Oath to her students: “In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.” 

Lee then held a discussion with her classes about the importance of that oath, and what it means. Students had various responses: “I think it means to respect everyone.” “They’re trying to say that one country isn’t better than another.” “An oath is a promise that people make in sports to be respectful and not cheat.” 

Lee pointed out that sportsmanship and respect is a major component of the Olympics. “Even though everyone is competing against each other, I never see anyone in the Olympics be mean to their competitors,” she told her students. “You know why? Everyone worked so hard to get there.” 

Lee said the students have been really excited about playing these unique games. The bobsled is a particular favorite, she noted. 

Although Lee loves the Olympics, she admitted that having students do a Summer Games-themed series would be unlikely, as those events are held typically in July and August. The only way that could happen is if there’s an extreme amount of make-up days at the end of the year, she joked. 

“Someday, if we have 28 snow days, and we have school in July, then we’ll do it!” Lee said with a laugh.