Two elementary schools use the “storyline method” of teaching to help students learn about ancient and modern Olympics — and every subject in between
An overflowing crowd and a packed Ward Rhoden Stadium of parents and spectators watched over the interschool Olympics Thursday evening.
Approximately 545 elementary students met at the track by the stadium in Prineville to celebrate and participate in the celebration. Altogether, there were 22 classrooms represented, from Cecil Sly Elementary and Crooked River Elementary. The entire kindergarten through third grade participated from both schools, and Cecil Sly also had participation from their fifth-grade classes as well.
“As I approached the field last night and saw the hundreds of parents in the stadium and our students preparing to walk over in Olympic manner, I was more than impressed,” remarked Cecil Sly Principal Jim Bates. “I was moved by the view. This was an outstanding example of what we must include in our systems. An incredible amount of preparation went into the culminating event. I applaud each teacher for the connections they made in the lives of children. This includes the academic work that happens in this process and the memories that they will keep forever.”
The list of events, including the inter-school Olympics, was headed up by Crooked River first grade instructor Kim Bartolotti, who, with the help of 22 other teachers, spent almost two months weaving and intertwining the Olympics into their curriculum. Although the school-wide Olympics was the culminating event, the learning that led up to the celebration was just as important for the students.
According to Bartolotti, the project began with a letter from the Olympic Committee asking the students if they had ever dreamt of being a famous athlete, and whether they would want to win a real gold medal? The letter went on to say that many individuals would be striving for this same dream in the summer 2012 Olympic Games, in London, England. The letter also discussed the effort and determination it takes to be an Olympic athlete and whether the students would want to carry out their own version of the Olympics, by representing a school-wide Olympics on May 31, in Prineville.
“Of course, they all said yes, and our journey began,” said Bartolotti.
She noted that one of the first things the classes did was to invite 1968 Olympian Tracy Smith to share his experience from that important time in his life. He motivated the students to always follow their dreams in and out of the classroom and never give up.
“I really emphasized to not be a quitter, and always push through — even if you’re not winning,” said Smith. “Because, when you give in and quit, you start making it a really bad habit that is hard to change in your life. It can not only get you on the athletic field, but it can start getting you when you are trying to get jobs.”
Smith participated in 1968 in the men’s 10,000-meter race in Mexico City, Mexico, placing 11th in the race, and was the first American to finish the race. He held many United States and world rankings during the 1960s and 1970s.
Smith also said that running is something he has been doing since he was 14 years old
“Running is one of the simpler forms of exercise—you don’t have to have any real super equipment. It can be a way of life that will add years to your life.”
Throughout the eight-week study, students learned about a variety of subject matter, based on the grade level of the students. Each class was assigned a country, and a great deal of their curriculum revolved around the study of the country. Bartolotti’s class represented Jamaica.
“Our eight-week study has been and has continued to be, completed through the storyline method of teaching,” noted Bartolotti. “The storyline method is a method of teaching where students are immersed into an actual story. The different event that happen and the learning that takes place is based on the things that actually happen to them in their story.”
This form of teaching motivates students to learn, as they become their own ‘meaning makers.’
It is more about the process and not merely about content. The teacher’s role is mainly that of a facilitator. Together, learner and teacher create a scenario through visualization, including the making of collages, three-dimensional models, and pictures employing a variety of art and craft techniques. According to the first and second grade instructors that commented on the project, the storyline method also opened up opportunities for students to take advantage of other “teachable moments.”
In their storyline at Crooked River Elementary, some classes created a topic book on their country and the Olympics, which incorporated all of their learning experiences. First-grade student Collier Buffington shared his book, and had lots of things to say about it.
“Jamaica has the world’s biggest centipede, and there are some snakes that aren’t in any other places in the world,” said Buffington.
He added that students in Jamaica had to wear uniforms to school.
“It is in the Carribean Sea, and their capitol is Kingston.”
Avery LeFevre, also a first-grader in Bartolotti’s class, said that they also learned about weather.
“We got a letter from the Olympic Committee, and we had to help Greece fly to London and they were having bad weather,” commented LeFevre.
This was part of the storyline, and the teachers used topics such as these as a springboard to dig deeper into the content of the subject. Students created various projects in writing, math, social studies, health, and art.
“We also learned about nutrition, and what are healthy choices and not healthy choices in food,” said LeFevre.
To celebrate the learning, the students ended their study with the school-wide Olympics at the Crook County High School track (Ward Rhoden Football Stadium). The ceremonies started with Smith carrying the torch, followed by the Parade of Nations, presentation of colors, national anthem, and the Olympic Oath. Students all dressed in attire that reflected their country’s colors, and they marched in with their country flag. The sight was quite overwhelming, and the stadium was full and overflowing with parents and spectators.
Each student competed in one running event and one field event. Running events included 50, 100, 200, and 400-meter dashes, and relay races. Field events included shot put, discus, long jump, and high jump.
Middle school physical education instructor and high school track team coach, Ernie Brooks, in addition to his track team, were big contributors to the event, coordinating the events at the track, and leading the relays and various running events.
“The high school track team and head coach Ernie Brooks helped us to smoothly run the event and their assistance is phenomenal,” concluded Bartolotti. “It is amazing what can happen when teachers from all levels within a school district work together to go above and beyond for authentic learning.”