Amsterdam students participate in own Olympics

With their winter boots thumping on the ground and snow pants swooshing, the third-, fourth- and fif

With their winter boots thumping on the ground and snow pants swooshing, the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at the Raphael J. McNulty Academy for International Studies and Literacy sprinted up the hill next to the school Tuesday to get ready for the first events in the 2010 McNulty Winter Olympic Games.

Earlier that morning, the entire school came together to participate in the opening ceremonies of the magnet school’s second winter Olympics, which included a parade of nations, songs and torch-lighting ceremony.

“There is a lot of excitement in the building today,” Principal Barbara Petersen said.

Each grade at the elementary school studies a different country all year and incorporates that country’s customs, food and culture into their curriculum. As with the actual Olympics, taking place right now in Vancouver, British Columbia, all the grades representing different countries come together for camaraderie and competition during the games, which will last until Friday.

McNulty physical education teacher Christine Dylong organized the Olympic events, which this year include snowshoe racing, snowboarding, floor hockey and bobsledding.

The lack of snow is a problem this year as it was in 2006, the last time McNulty put on a winter Olympics. The games were supposed to start last Monday but were postponed in the hopes that snow would fall.

“They are experiencing similar problems in Vancouver,” magnet school Director Peter Yettru said, “but the games have to go on.”

Instead of snowshoeing Tuesday, students used buddy boards and had relay races. They ran relay races up and down the grass instead of trudging through the snow in the slalom competition, and they found the smallest patch of snow left to have dogsled races, with classmates instead of dogs pulling the sleds.

The different classes in each grade compete against each other and the winners receive certificates, but at the end of the games each student takes home a gold medal for participating, Dylong said.

The Olympics are a time of peace and camaraderie, Dylong said, and she wants the students to experience that this week.

“I want them to realize that this is a worldwide event,” she said. “This is about the struggles, both good and bad, and I want them to realize that there are bigger things out there.”

Laughing the entire time, third-grader Taylor Krawczyk, 8, raced up to an orange cone and back, lugging a classmate in a sled.

“He was heavy,” she said as she finished.

In the middle of the field, Grace Catena, 11, and classmate Nina Fedullo, 10, were participating in what was called the slalom event. Students raced back and forth to their teammates two at a time with linked arms, zig-zagging between cones to make the event more challenging.

The fifth-graders at McNulty were researching Canada all year and were the host team at the Olympics. Catena said she liked being the host country but thought it was embarrassing to sing the country’s national anthem, “O Canada,” in front of the entire school.

Otherwise, the girls said they were enjoying themselves. Catena was on a floor hockey team that was playing in the Olympic finals, and she was excited about the match.

The floor hockey competition is one of the most anticipated events of the games. Each grade had three teams that played each other in a round robin to qualify for the Olympics. The top two teams will play to be the winner of their class.

Fourth-grader Stephen Knack, 9, and classmate Robbie Bautz, also 9, worked to navigate around a cone on buddy boards. Knack said he couldn’t wait to go snowboarding, an activity planned for today if there is enough snow.

The school secured about 20 pairs of snowshoes and a dozen snowboards for the Olympics. Students had to get permission from their parents to participate in the snowboarding event. They also had to bring in snow pants, boots, hats, gloves and coats to participate in the outside activities.

Not only were the students having fun, but the Olympics at McNulty brought the teachers together to organize and oversee each event.

Reading teacher Maureen Moran, whose son Ryan is in fifth grade, said she was excited about the Olympics and the opportunity to get outside and play with the children.

“They see us in a different light,” she said. “Usually we’re authority figures, but this week we get to be outside playing with them.”

Olympic events continue today and for the rest of the week. A closing ceremony is scheduled for Friday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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