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Olympics catching fire in Naperville PE class

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NAPERVILLE — After the torch was passed to Megan Ramsay, the fifth-grader jogged over to the cauldron crafted out of crepe paper to light the Olympic flame. As she dipped the homemade paper torch into the makeshift cauldron, her teacher simultaneously plugged in an extension cord causing the colored crepe paper to light up like a fire.

The darkened gymnasium Clow Elementary School was filled with oohs and aahs from students in the first period of the day. The games officially would begin in Art Sparbanie’s physical education class.

The pomp and pageantry would be repeated throughout day as each class arrived for PE. For the next several weeks, students in kindergarten through fifth grade in Sparbanie’s classes will perform simulated versions of speed skating, two-person bobsled, the luge, hockey, curling and cross-country skiing into their regular gym classes.

Instead of strapping on ice skates, students on Monday glided across the gym floor on paper plates. They also attempted bobsled and luge with the help of scooters.

With the start of this Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, over the weekend, Sparbanie said Monday’s opening ceremonies in his class was a perfect opportunity to incorporate a worldwide event into everyday classes and bring a little of the excitement of the Olympic Games to school.

In addition to the torch lighting ceremony, Sparbanie added to the ambiance by mounting Olympic rings from colored plastic hoops on the gymnasium wall and played Olympic-style music in the background during the class.

Even posters of students’ handprints around the gymnasium are a symbolic gesture of support for U.S. athletes competing 5,700 miles away. “The kids are giving the athletes a high-five,” Sparbanie said.

The Library Media Center also is on board with the Olympic theme. Director Beverly Frett said students and staff are keeping track of the U.S. gold medal count every day. When American wins gold, a sticker is placed on the sport in the huge display on the LMC wall.

Frett added that students are checking out many books from the library on the various Olympic sports to learn more about the sports themselves as well as the athletes.

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