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Mark Twain Elementary School - Winter Olympics Curling 02/16/18

Kindergartner Grayce Pointon, right, pushes a sit-scooter during a curling activity at Mark Twain Elementary School in Charleston on Friday.

CHARLESTON -- The sport of curling might be easier to understand, and to do, when it's the kindergarten version.

It means you have to substitute the roughly 40-pound granite curling stone with a wheeled sit-scooter and aim it at a taped square on a gymnasium floor instead of a target across about 150 feet of ice.

But kindergartners at Mark Twain Elementary School in Charleston experienced the sport like that on Friday during a lesson coinciding with the Winter Olympics.

Curling is just one of the Olympic sports that physical education teacher Debbie Keefe is re-creating for the lesson that started with the Olympics' opening ceremonies and will continue until around the time they close.

She said the idea is provide new activities for the students and allow them to relate to what they might be seeing on TV.

"The Olympics are a big deal," Keefe said. "It's a great way to bring the world to the students."

She started Friday's class by asking the youngsters if they had, in fact, watched curling during broadcasts of the Olympics. She then told them that the game is popular in Canada and some parts of Europe and originated on frozen ponds in Scotland more than 500 years ago.

Keefe also explained how curling is played with the heavy stone and ice sheet with a target called a "house," before turning them loose to their version.

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"Give it a big push," Keefe said to the students, urging them to make sure they got their scooters to the target.

They took turns aiming at the target along with using pool noodles to act as if they were sweeping the ice sheet, which Keefe told them is done in actual curling to melt the ice a bit and make the stone slide faster.

Keefe said the students have also taken part in their versions of hockey, figure skating, speed skating and other Olympic sports. They used paper plates on their feet to slide on the floor as if they were wearing skates and also used pool noodles as hockey sticks and ski poles.

The unit started with re-creation of a torch relay and a lesson on how the actual Olympic torch travels from Greece to the games' location.

One benefit is that kids are "learning to win with grace and learning to lose with grace," Keefe also said. The students and their individual classrooms can earn medals and other rewards, she added.

"You want the kids to learn how to put out good efforts," she said.

Keefe said she tries to regularly use themed units in her PE classes to help motivate the students.

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