LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was the super bowl. From anywhere around the campus of Lake George Elementary School, you could hear the cheers and chants of a vicious battle.

From one side of the ring: “Get ’em, Kaylee!” From the other: “Come on, Luke!”

The fire over a fierce game of Gaga Ball kicked off a day of fun activities and constructive stories for students at Lake George Elementary School, which held its 2022 school Winter Olympic Games on Friday. The school holds the full-day event every year that the Winter Olympic Games are held, and this year was no exception.

The games are an opportunity for every class at the elementary school to come together and play, whether it’s the aforementioned Gaga Ball – where students enter a hexagonal ring and free-for-all over a ball with a certain set of rules – or sledding on the slick athletic field hill, which even this week’s warm weather couldn’t turn green just yet. It’s about playing together before a school break around President’s Day weekend, but it’s also about finding new ways to learn.

“We chose a sport, went to olympics.com and got some facts,” described 5th-grade student Debra Conner. “We learned a lot of information from some different websites, and then for one night we had to watch a sport and do a ‘who, what, when, where, why.'”

Conners’ class, and others from across different grades, went on to choose athletes to make posters of. Each one hangs in the school gymnasium, complete with photos, names, and a list of sports that athlete has competed in. Each one also has a greeting – “Hello from Bejing 2022” – written in that athlete’s native language. The papercrafting, researching and writing were an effort across classrooms.

  • lake george elementary school ol
  • lake george elementary school ol
  • lake george elementary school ol
  • lake george elementary school ol
  • lake george elementary school ol
  • lake george elementary school ol

“We started coloring in (the posters) on top. I think second grade finished it,” said Conner. “Second grade finished it, and we started making the medals,” agreed Izzy Hart, fellow 5th grader and Conner’s classmate.

Conner agrees with the screaming majority of kids in the ring nearby – Gaga Ball is her favorite. Hart likes it too, but says the best thing about the day for her is seeing her friends in different grades, who she often gets to see on the playground, but not usually for an entire day like this. As for sport preferences, Hart is a swimmer, and Conner plays for the school softball team.

Over the course of Friday, Conner, Hart and their friends across grade lines enjoyed Gaga Ball, sledding, and broomball. Cross-country skiing had to be called off due to the week’s warm weather, which melted down enough snow to leave the rest – and even the school’s outdoor walkways – slick and icy.

The day of fun had another purpose, too. This year’s Lake George Winter Olympics carried a four-pronged theme: Mind, body, heart and spirit.

“The Olympics today celebrates wellness,” said elementary school Principal James Conway. “It was driven by our staff, and driven by students as well. You can see that in our opening ceremonies.”

Yes, you could. Band students drummed on plastic buckets, and trumpet players played in the ceremony on Friday morning behind the school. Two students ran with a handmade torch, and students from each grade announced their own contribution to the day’s festivities. Some were as simple as making crafts for the athlete posters, and others as detailed as creating a museum of Olympic athletes, explorable on iPads arranged around the school library.

An iPad sits on a table with many more for Lake George Elementary School’s museum of Olympic athletes. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

The four-category mantra of mind, body, heart and spirit was reflected in a quartet of presentations. School social worker Ann Moellman and counselor Jennifer Dell’Olio gave a presentation on what it means to be mindful to others. Cornell Cooperative Extension led a talk on nutrition and the importance of getting enough sleep. School psychologist Sarah Dillman joined Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health and the Rutland County Boys and Girls Club to talk about emotional intelligence. As for the “spirit” part, students came from across town at Lake George Jr./Sr/ High School to talk about inner drive and following passions.

In the school gymnasium, near where the Olympic athlete posters hang, a group of students sat and listened to a presentation from Sweethearts and Heroes, a nationally-renowned group that gives talks on student empowerment and empathy and compassion. They heard about not judging by appearances, and not letting fear of being different stand in their way.

Of course, it doesn’t escape anyone that the school’s one-day Olympic games take place at the same time as the national games in Bejing. Many kids sledding down the hill or learning in the gym have been following the games themselves.

“I usually watch them all the time with my family members,” said Hart. “Especially bobsledding, because my mom and I went to where my dad works, somewhere in Lake Placid. Every winter he goes there for his job, so my mom and I go and do fun stuff up there.”

Hart and her mother saw the Olympic bobsled run at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. From then on, she was hooked – just like the circle of students cheering and shouting as the next round of Gaga Ball echoed around outside the school. At Lake George, Friday’s Olympic games were another way to celebrate passion, for passion’s sake.