FARMINGTON — The mock Olympic Games held at Knowlton Elementary on Friday morning may not have been exactly like the original, but the experience helped sixth-grade students understand more about the origins of the event and the culture from which they came.
As part of their study of ancient cultures, students came dressed in homemade Greek chitons — the Greek version of togas — to participate in competitions similar to events held at the original Olympics.
“It’s a nice opportunity to experience it firsthand. It’s one thing to learn about it in class or to watch it on a video. Even though we do pencils for javelins and paper plates for discuses, they kind of get the feel of the competition and the experience,” said Kirstin Reed, a sixth-grade teacher.
The 111 sixth-graders were divided into five groups representing the original Greek city-states: Athens, Sparta, Megara, Corinth and Argos. The groups displayed signs identifying their city state as they paraded through the school cafeteria as part of the opening ceremonies.
“It’s not divided by classes, so it’s nice to see them cheering on each other even though they are from different classes,” said Sonya Nelson, a sixth-grade teacher.
Each student had the opportunity to compete in all five events: javelin (pencil) throw, discus (paper plate) throw, foot race, standing broad jump and shot put (Koosh ball) throw.
Boys competed against boys and girls against girls.
“They didn’t let girls compete in ancient Greece,” said Gabrielle Mason, 11, who went on to win a gold medal in the javelin throw.
Mason said she was glad she was able to compete in the school games.
“We want them to remember the spirit of the Olympics and what they all entailed. It was a period of time when the city-states called a truce to compete,” said Nelson.
Steve Mills said that he recently learned that Athens and Sparta often fought in a “quest for power.”
“Their fighting brought down Greece because they were so tired. If they had just been friends, they could have worked against the forces that came from the north,” Mills, 11, said.
Mills’ teammate, Jake Wendt, explained that the fighting would often cease during the games.
“Athens and Sparta would fight until the Olympics, and then they would sign a peace treaty for the Olympics,” Wendt, 12, said.
The teachers at the school hoped that the camaraderie of the school’s games would also benefit the students.
“Because their classes are mixed, it’s not Ms. Nelson’s class versus Ms. Reed’s class, it’s Sparta versus Athens,” said Reed.
“We want them to focus on the sportsmanship and friendships,” said Nelson.
At the end of the competition, winners in each event were awarded with laurel wreaths and gold, silver or bronze medals.
The classes were then treated to a traditional Greek meal of bread, olives, cheese, grapes and grape juice.
“The kids have a really good time. ... It gives them a chance to feel that competitive spirit in a positive way,” Reed said.