By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – For the past few weeks, athletes from around the globe have been competing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The students at Westborough's Armstrong Elementary School have also been participating in many of the same competitive sports – without the snow – right in their very own school.
Activities included curling, speed skating, bobsledding, biathlon, ski jumping and other sports, adapted for the school gym. They also learned a lot about other cultures as well as current events.
On Feb. 26, students, faculty and guests were invited to the closing ceremony for the Armstrong Elementary Winter Olympics. The students were led into the cafeteria by the three official mascots. A slide show of photographs from the Olympic-related activities was presented.
“Today brings the close to a very honorable tradition,” Principal John Mendes said. “The Winter Olympics [is] still a wholesome event that the American public can look up to. I think it was wonderful for our children to participate in Winter Olympic-like Phys. Ed. classes where they did compete in several of the Winter Olympic-like events.”
He noted that Armstrong's opening ceremonies were held the week before school vacation, “so the students could watch the Olympics and understand what they were about, having already been exposed to the topic.”
This is the fifth time first-grade teacher Mary Johnson has organized the school Olympics. She tries to follow along with the actual Olympics as much as possible.
“Because we do this program every four years, each time we do it, there is such excitement in the air,” she said. “It's never done exactly the same and we try to have this event reflect the culture of our school.”
One year, she recalled, Olympic skier Nikki Stone – who is from Westborough – came to the closing ceremony.
“That was an amazing experience for everyone. It's programs like this that really reflect our team effort,” Johnson said.
Math teacher Bonny Pacillo made all of the costumes; Mendes created the Olympic flame; technology paraprofessional Marybeth Brosnihan put together the slide show; and gym teacher Ali Rheaume created the Olympic events.
Many students participated in the closing ceremony. Paige Kinsky held the actual torch that her grandfather used as a torch runner in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. Sudikshya Gurung, who is from Nepal, carried the imitation torch.
Mendes said it's the spirit of teamwork and good sportsmanship that they hope to pass on to the students.
“Olympic gold medalist Shaun White lost gracefully,” he said. “He didn's try to point blame at the weather conditions or anything else for that matter, other than the fact that he did not compete as strong as he would have liked. He lost gracefully and that is a good role model for the kids. That's the type of thing we want to promote.”
In 2018, South Korea will host the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The Olympic flag has officially been passed to South Korea and the Armstrong School will inevitably start anew with their plans for the next competitions at that time.