The Olympic Spirit is alive and well at Fair Oaks Elementary School. Organized and spurred on by self-proclaimed Olympic buff and fifth/sixth grade teacher Michelle Danner, the whole school joined in the activities and learned about the games.
As part of their curriculum, sixth graders study Ancient Greece and the Olympics have tied in with that lesson this year. The students were ready to present information about the Olympics and the history of the games when this year’s Winter Olympics opened. Each sixth grade classroom was involved with doing research and creating different aspects of information about the Olympics to put on display in what became known as the school’s “Olympic Village.”
The colorful displays talked about aspects such as the history of medals in the Olympics, the features included in the design of each one, what they’re made of, and how many will be awarded. Another display explained the Olympic flame and how Olympic torches work, while another explained about the Olympic rings and the meaning behind them. Another had photos and profiles of past and present Winter Olympians. There were drawings of Olympic T-shirts, information about the Olympic motto, which translates to “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” the Olympic oath and what it means, and the Olympic creed.
Lower grade classes visited the Olympic Village in the upper grades hallway, where some upper grade students talked about the displays to the younger students.
“The kids learn more about the Olympics,” said Danner, “about perseverance, sportsmanship, countries coming together in peace…and applying those principles in life.”
She added that her class created their own oath: We do what is right, because it is right, no matter what.
The lower grades also created their own hallway displays that showed how the students voted on their favorite Olympic events with a giant graph, photos, and gold medals. There were also pictures and descriptions of the different Winter Olympic events.
The U.S.A. medal count was on display and updated daily in the school cafeteria. Olympic trivia and highlights were also delivered over the morning announcements. Danner said that students would come to school each day and talk enthusiastically about the Olympic events they’d watched on TV the night before.
“The kids were psyched,” Danner said about the Olympic theme at school. “I’ve never seen a group of kids so excited.”
Danner has a connection with 1994 Olympic gold medalist speed skater Dan Jansen. Jansen is now a television speed skating commentator and was at this year’s Olympics. In the past, Danner’s students have written letters to Jansen and he has responded. Again this year, her students wrote letters to Jansen. Since there’s been some special focus in her class on the speed skater, a situation with a Dutch speed skater who was disqualified and lost the gold medal at this year’s Olympics provided her students with the opportunity to write point-of-view papers.
On March 1, the sixth grade classes participated in their version of the Olympic games, eight different events, created and run by the students and coordinated by teacher Tara Vandermark and her class. There was also a Greek Reader’s Theater (play) organized by Laura Sanguinetti and her class. An Ancient Greek fashion show was put together by Keith Burns and his class. The school also held its own closing ceremonies, having a special “torch” passed between classes to close the games.