EGG HARBOR CITY — Setting up a ski jump in the library of the Egg Harbor City Community School was challenging, but somehow gym teacher and Winter Olympics coordinator Kim Goodwin managed it.
The improvised Olympic event, using individual exercise trampolines and gym pads to land on, had fourth- to eighth-grade students bouncing and flying as many feet out over the mats as they could manage on Friday afternoon.
It was one of six athletic events that the school’s approximately 240 students could participate in as a way of having fun and learning about the Olympic games, said Principal Jack Griffith. The winter games in Sochi, Russia, begin Feb. 7.
Teachers included Olympic themes in lesson plans leading up to the school celebration, and the kids were split into 12 mixed-age country teams. Each team had its own color, and team T-shirts were provided by grant money, Griffith said.
Teams also created their own country flag to hold during an opening ceremony. The students will stay in those mixed-age teams for other events throughout the year, Griffith said, to promote camaraderie and a sense of responsibility, as older kids help younger ones.
“Every class looked at the Sochi games — the city and country, and the events taking place,” said Matt Wira, a seventh- and eighth-grade special education teacher. “They know all of the events now.”
Kids were definitely having fun, especially the Venezuelan team, which was full of team spirit. Some members couldn’t get enough of the bobsled, located with hockey in the gym, even though they had to wear helmets.
Fifth-grader Leilani Davis and fourth-grader Yasanee Jackson offered to go in other students’ places, and couldn’t stop smiling after being pushed around the gym on dollies covered by gym mats.
There was an occasional knock into a wall, but since the walls were covered with mats, too, it wasn’t a big deal, students said.
Also in the library was a torch relay, with students racing each other around book stacks as they wore togas and held plungers topped with soccer balls to balance.
“I watched the (summer) Olympics with my mom,” said fourth-grader Azzure McKenney, adding she will watch the Sochi games. Fourth-grader Anthony Ruiz said the day’s events made him more interested in the games.
The cafeteria, empty of tables, held speed skating — performed by students, teachers and staff “skating” on paper plates around a course — and curling, which bore a strong resemblance to shuffleboard.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks,” fifth-grade in-class resource teacher Tom Kresz said after completing the speed-skating race.
He was up against one of his fifth-graders, Jamil Highsmith, who beat him.
“It felt good,” said Highsmith. But he said he didn’t gloat too much.
All the participants took an Olympic oath before starting the games, promising to, among other things, be a good sport, he said.
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