GROTON -- According to legend, the first Olympic Games originated as a way for ancient Greeks to salute their gods. In the spirit of modern Olympics' salute to athletic talent, sixth-graders at Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School held their own Greek Olympic Day on June 8.
The annual event began six years ago, according to Diane Glinka, sixth-grade teacher. Coordinated by teachers, it is a culminating activity tied into the state's sixth-grade standard for which students study ancient civilization, including the original Greek Olympics held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to 4th century AD.
To represent each homeroom class at the games, students chose a city-state from Ancient Greece, then designed and painted large, colorful flags for the games. Tracy Week's homeroom class, named the Olives, took the trophy for the flag competition with the winning design of an olive tree whose branches held olives with the names of the students.
A perfect opportunity to be outside and enjoy the weather, Weeks said it was also an opportunity for students to work with other sixth-graders they may not have the chance to work with on a daily basis.
A favorite part of the event for teachers is the opening and closing ceremonies where all the students gather as a whole. At the opening ceremony, sixth-grade teams displaying flags listened to teacher David Robinson describe the games and events. As everyone turned towards the large American flag flying in
"Let the games begin!" announced Robinson and students ran screaming with excitement onto the athletic field where the outdoor activities such as a relay race, egg toss, golf and ping pong ball relay would take place.
This year for the first time, students donated gifts to Transitions, a family shelter run by Our Father's House at Devens. According to Clare O'Neill, sixth-grade teacher, there are inscriptions from Ancient Greece depicting a ritual in which young people give up their toys as a signal of their adulthood. "I knew of the shelter at Devens and connected the dots; the director, Amy Naveja, is very grateful for the donations," said O'Neill.
The Olympic day closed with a presentation of awards for individual events and best homeroom city-state. Students stood on podiums to receive first-, second- and third-place ribbons.
Sixth-grade teachers agree, the event is a fun way to end the school year, instill an appreciation of ancient history and foster healthy competition, just as the official Olympic creed states: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle."
The 2012 Olympic Games are scheduled to open Friday, July 27, in London and the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School Chamber Chorus, under the direction of Tim Savoy, and is one of only five choruses in the country to receive an invitation to perform at the games and at Westminster Abbey.
For information visit www.gdchamber2012.com.