ATLANTIC CITY — Ishrat Jabin, 13, is from Bangladesh, but on Friday she played an athlete from Argentina during the opening ceremonies of the Sovereign Avenue School Winter Olympics.
“That’s in South America, of course,” she said of her adopted country, “and soccer is a famous sport there.”
As one of the most diverse schools in Atlantic City, Sovereign Avenue is used to welcoming students from many nations. More than half of the more than 900 students in grades K-8 speak Spanish as their primary language at home. An additional 10 percent speak Bengali, and 6 percent speak Vietnamese.
As the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, bring together athletes from all over the world, teachers at Sovereign Avenue are using the games to help students share their cultures and learn about others. Each class chose a country it will study and represent for the next two weeks.
English teacher Tish Becker, an organizer of the event with Caroline McCabe and Adhan Perez, said all teachers are incorporating lessons into the theme, whether it’s tracking Olympic medals in math or reading fables from different countries in English.
“We want our students to have a well-rounded education,” Becker said. Linking the lessons to the Olympics gives them a real-life connection.
Students have already begun learning about their countries. Kathy Tran, 8, a representative of Egypt, said they had learned about mummies. Anthony Wilcox, 6, said he learned that Norway has a lot of sports that involve snow.
“Like skiing, where you go down a hill like this,” he said, pumping his arms to demonstrate how skiers use their poles.
Students are divided into five teams, each representing a color of the Olympic rings. They will compete in Olympiclike events during gym class, and the winning teams will be awarded medals during the closing ceremonies Feb. 21.
On Friday, students held an opening ceremony, complete with a parade of countries, led off by the host country, Russia. They carried the flags of their countries and dressed in their native garb or colors representing the flags.
Countries with a representation of students got huge cheers, including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Pakistan. But the largest cheers were saved for last, as the American flag entered the gym.
A group of students representing the original Greeks carried in the Olympic torch. Students in the school music academy played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Mayor Don Guardian lit the electric torch that will remain on through the two-week event. Students cheered, chanted “USA, USA” and took an abbreviated version of the Olympic oath in which they promised to abide by the rules and show good sportsmanship.
“Let the games begin!” announced eighth-grader Bryan Alba, one of the torchbearers chosen for his school spirit and leadership abilities, along with Fidel Garcia, Adrian Nunez, Miguel Javier and Jacob Roman.
“We chose students who are good role models,” said Becker, not to mention those confident enough to take some ribbing about wearing a toga for the event.
Principal Medina Peyton said she promotes interdisciplinary learning, and having a theme like the Olympics helps bring all subject areas, students and teachers together.
The school also played host to a group of students from Seoul, South Korea, who are spending two weeks traveling through New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington and historic sites in Virginia. Sovereign Avenue student Godfre Tucci, 10, whose class is representing South Korea in the school Olympics, played the role of school ambassador, welcoming the Korean students with origami lotus flowers students had made for them.
Kevin Treadaway, vice principal at the private school in Korea, said students there have lessons in both Korean and English, and take trips to experience global cultures.
“This was a tremendous experience for them,” he said.
Contact Diane D'Amico: