Nicole Jacobsen
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In honor of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Lower School students, faculty, and staff of the Episcopal School of Dallas participated in a special chapel service on Monday, February 10, to honor the countries and athletes competing in the 22nd winter games. This decades-long tradition at the Lower School was especially memorable this year, as two former Olympians attended the event to share their experiences with the students, and show off some of their Olympic memorabilia.

Janine Bowman from the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and Dave Clark from the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome led the procession, followed by fourth-grade students Courteney Sands presenting a real Olympic torch and Cash Whiteman carrying the U.S. flag.

“Getting to carry a flag in the Opening Ceremony was really special for my last year at the Lower School,” one fourth grade student said. “But getting to carry the flag behind two Olympians made it an experience I will never forget.” 

After the ceremony, students gathered in the gymnasium to ask Bowman and Clark some questions about their training regimens, and experiences competing on a global stage.

“I was just excited to see them at our school and to see the medals, but to actually ask them about their sports and what it takes to be a U.S. Olympic athlete was really cool,” another flag-bearer said. “Their answers really inspired me to always try my hardest and to remember that nothing is impossible.”

This year, additional academic activities were made possible, in part, by an ESD Learning Innovation Grant that encourages and supports initiatives that blend wellness and physical activity with culture and education. Earlier in the year, students and teachers started brainstorming ideas that dovetailed their curricular goals, including historical and cultural research, sports statistics, and forming global connections.

The integration of history, culture, and wellness surrounding the Olympics Games and the participating countries has been a staple of the Lower School curriculum for decades. This year's study also promotes science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Through ESD faculty collaboration with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, math- and science-based hands-on learning and research projects are interwoven.

Beginners made Olympic ring artwork and their own paper torches to carry during the Opening Ceremonies. In kindergarten, students researched the history of the Olympics, ranging from traditions and history, to what a visit to Sochi would entail. The first-grade classes, after reading Mary Pope Osborne’s, Hour of the Olympics, researched the difference between today’s games and the original events that was later turned into an interactive iBook. The first grade classes have also been tweeting with Thomas White, a member of the U.S. bobsled team.

Second grade students participated in a video conference with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science to discuss how STEM applies to the games. Third grade classes worked together to form trivia questions about the Olympics to broadcast over the school’s intercom system to count down to the start of the games, and fourth grade learned how geometry plays into hockey techniques, and what the scientific and mathematical differences are between hockey and figure skating skates.

In Physical Education classes, third and fourth grade students joined together as "countries" to create flags, make team uniforms, and engineer their own equipment, while also training for makeshift competitions that include modified biathlons, cross country skiing, bobsledding, hockey, and figure skating.

"One division-wide curricular goal in this study is to ensure that students understand they are enmeshed in a world of global relationships," Chelle Wabrek, Assistant Head of Lower School said. "In an effort to examine this inter-relational web, families have helped bring the location of the games to life, including sharing cultural items from trips to Russia, as well as folklore, food, and family stories."

To see photos from the event, please click here.

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