If anyone has doubts that preschool children can absorb the complexities of the Olympic games, come spend some time with us in our classroom, and my children will change your mind!
As their teacher, I was prepared for the curricular excitement of the Olympics. I created a family Olympic packet that explained the games, and I wrote detailed lesson plans for each day of the games. I created a workbook for each child, where we would journal and draw about each new Olympic topic. I designed Smartboard lessons that showed each sport in action and explained how the athletes would earn their placement in each event. We would also be discussing all the life lessons inherent to competition of any kind: grace in losing, modesty in winning, perseverance, integrity, honesty, and motivation.
I took a chance, and created a website called “Kindergarten Olympics.”
It was a shot in the dark, but a worthy one.
I posted the website address on a few Olympic fan pages on Facebook, and crossed my fingers. Well, the Greek gods were shining down upon us, because somehow, we attracted the attention of two mothers of Olympic figure skaters: Jeremy Abbott and Rachael Flatt! How did we get so lucky to attract this kind of response? I have no idea. But their letters and photos transformed the experience from the two-dimensional television screen to a full-blown emotional journey for the children.
The first to respond was Jeremy Abbott’s mother, Allison Scott. She wrote in her first email that their family motto is “PCF,” which means that when you try really hard, anything is possible; even Pigs Can Fly! She sent us photographs of Jeremy, of Vancouver, and of their PCF puppet, named Bobby, who gave us his own almost-daily personal insights to the Olympic experience. The children were hooked! We also heard from Jody Flatt, Rachael’s mother. Jody also sent us photos; the children’s favorite one was of Rachael’s two Old English Sheepdogs, Fred & Ethel!
The men’s short program one of the first events of the Olympics for the children. The children watched Jeremy’s performance on my Smartboard. They were disappointed with his placement afterwards, and they needed an explanation. This was difficult to do, because I had to assure them that although Jeremy had struggled with his performance and didn’t place well, just BEING at the Olympics was an honor. Since the children had no prior experience with pre-Olympic competition, it was hard for them to rationalize this explanation.
Enter: Allison Scott.
There was no greater Olympic lesson for the children. Sure, we watched other athletes struggle and fall, soar and succeed, medal, and celebrate. We journaled, crayoned, and discussed our way through biathlon, snowboard cross and short track. We mapped the athlete’s countries, played their sports in gym, reenacted different events, and had our own opening and closing ceremonies. But their first, and most lasting lesson, was Jeremy’s. Life may not always give you exactly what you want most, even if you try really, really hard. The lesson we learned is that it isn’t about what happens to you. It’s what you DO with the events that happen to you. It’s your attitude. It’s how you view it. And, it’s how you make something better happen because of your positive attitude. Did Jeremy win a medal? No. But he and Allison taught us – ALL of us – how to approach the inevitable adversity in life. And that is an OLYMPIC-sized lesson that my class and I will never forget! - Molly Sanders Clauss -