Laura Rochte, School Library Media Specialist
With the Olympic theme blaring approximately fifty students make their way into the Mount Vernon Middle School Library for the 3rd Annual Seventh Grade Olympiad. The library has been transformed into a space fit for a contest of wills. With high ceilings, lots of natural light, and ample floor space, it can easily accommodate any activity. School librarian and Artemis, Laura Rochte, quickly divides the students into the Athena and Aphrodite teams. Each team is named for their respective seventh grade social studies teacher. The students are filled with anticipation over this year’s impending contest that will require skills of dexterity, accuracy, and knowledge. ESL teacher Jeremy Ketterman presides as Poseidon and welcomes the Athena and Aphrodite heroes. Olympian Bean Bag Toss (aka corn hole) is the first contest. The finer points of Olympian Bean Bag Toss are explained by teacher April Thompson dressed as Aphrodite. Within minutes bean bags are flying through the air. Heroes are urged on by Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, and Poseidon as they yell “Go, go, go.” One girl calls out, “Mrs. Thompson, I got one.” “Yeah you got one,” announces one teacher. All around students are cheering each other on.. The tallies are counted and Athena’s team takes it.
Poseidon calls for the heroes’ attention as the second contest of wills is explained. In Olympian Ladder Golf, the heroes are divided into two teams. Standing behind a line the hero standing at the head of the line must pitch two colored balls connected by an elastic toward the white ladder. Poseidon instructs the heroes not to retrieve the balls from the ladder; that, he announces, will be performed by Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis. Poseidon informs the heroes that if they try to retrieve the balls from the ladder, he will turn them into squids! Much laughter and giggling ensues. Each hero has an opportunity to fling the colored balls toward the ladder – some hit the wall, some tap the window, and some land on the floor. Lots of hooping and hollering as Artemis yells one minute left. The tallies are counted and Athena’s team takes it.
“The third round”, Poseidon announces, “requires more individual skill. Each team will select a hero to undertake the challenge.” Two tables are moved to the center of the room, heroes gather around as Rochte explains that one hero from each team will put a popsicle stick in his/her mouth and then balance six die on top of each other on the popsicle stick. All is quiet as you hear the thump, thump, thump of die hitting the table. In the one minute of allotted time – no one takes this round. A nimble hero is required for round four. Heroes call forth their most nimble classmates who move to their respective table. Rochte explains that with the chopsticks each must pick up four tubes of chapstick one at a time, and place it upright on the table. Within minutes cheers go up as the Athenians high 5 each other. A tall hero is required for round five. Heroes volunteer their tallest classmates who walk to the front of the library. After gathering six multi-color balloons, Rochte explains that each selected hero must keep three balloons up in the air for one minute without it touching the floor. “Go, go, go,” yell the heroes. Within seconds cheers go up – the Athenians claim victory once again. A short hero is required for round six. Four soda cans and a yoyo are used for this challenge. The string of the yoyo are tied to the hero’s belt while the four cans are set up in a square. Each hero must try to knock down the cans with the yoyo. Jumping up and down and cheers once again for the Athena team.
Heroes have studied mythology as part of world history. The last round builds on their understanding of mythology. Poseidon fires off each question:
My Roman name is Pluto
I mourn my daughter in the winter
Horses are my creation
I defeated my father
I am responsible for the Trojan War
And on it goes as each hero moves to the front of one of two lines to receive his/her question.
Aphrodite is my girlfriend
My Roman name is Mars
I swallowed all my children
I am the messenger of the gods
After twenty more questions, the Athena team wins the Olympian Trivia round. At the bell, the laughing and excited heroes live the library to head for lunch.
How did this collaboration among the social studies teachers, ESL teacher, and school librarian begin? Mr. Ketterman (Poseidon) explains that it all started with the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. Four years ago Riordan created a challenge for school children and their teachers to create challenges based on The Lost Hero. Although Mount Vernon Middle School did not win the challenge, an idea emerged for the Olympiad in which teachers would dress up on the Friday before Halloween as Olympic gods. The idea caught on among teachers to dress up and the games were held in the gym after school with chariot races as well as other games. The last couple of years, the Olympiad moved to the library and the games have changed so that each hero can feel more integral to the event. With the upcoming Olympiad, the book club, advised by Mrs. Rochte, sold fifty-four Olympiad-themed t-shirts. On the back, her t-shirt announced that she was an Artemis. Students could buy the t-shirts of their cabin or any other god such as Poseidon,
The Olympiad continued with different classes and teachers for two more class periods. The excitement and energy lasted until the 8th period bell when heroes left for the day and the weekend. On Monday, October 28, heroes will discover the Olympiad champion for 2013. Will it be the Athenas or the Aphrodites?
After school, boys and girls descended on the library for the Crocheting and Knitting Club advised by Mrs. Rochte. “Where are the tables?” asked one girl. As Mrs. Rochte explained the Seventh Grade Olympiad, boys and girls started moving the furniture back into place. As I said good-bye to Mrs. Rochte, the tables, chairs, comfy sofas and beanbag chairs were all making their way back into the sunny library.
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