RANDOLPH, NJ- Inspired by the fanfare surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Shongum School organized and carried out their first ever Scholastic Olympic Competition in February.
"It's been a really good mix of fun, value, teamwork element, a memory element and obviously the scholastic part of it as well," said Shongum Principal, Clifford Burns.
For two weeks, grades one through five competed against their grade levels and took on questions that ranged from Math to Science to History to Literature.
"This idea came about from one of my PTO parents," said Principal Burns. "We discussed how to really keep the students occupied and engaged during indoor recess time. Ilana Klochkov really came up with the idea and really spearheaded the whole thing."
Klochkov's idea occurred to her when she was talking to the PTO President, Dolly Alley.
"I thought that since it's an Olympic year that it would be great to do something like an Olympics," Ilana Klochkov said. "Obviously not in the athletic form because not all kids can compete but I thought maybe we could do the same concept on a scholastic level."
Klochkov instantly thought of shows like "Family Feud" and "Jeopardy" to help narrow her idea down. Alley loved it so much, she suggested Klochkov write something up to give to Principal Burns.
"The idea of the Shongum Olympics ties into Sochi and the things that are happening already in the world," said Principal Burns. "Just that whole idea of the Olympics and competition helped form this idea."
Each class was randomly assigned a country, representative or delegate. The PTO passed out some facts about each country so that the kids could learn a little bit of the country they sponsored. Twenty-four countries were assigned to the 24 classes. Then three teams were created for each class. Classes competed with one another answering age appropriate trivia questions that related to the curriculum.
"I'm thankful that this worked out as well as it did," said Klochkov. "Principal Burns was so supportive."
Although there were some winners and some losers, the reason for the competition was to teach kids how to compete together as a team. They either won together as a team or lost together as a team.
"The reason I bought into it was because it's fun, a good memory but it's also scholastic," said Principal Burns. "It's amazing how much these students retain. What's nice about it is that it isn't just single students up there answering questions, it's a group."
At the competitions, kids would be so excited they pressed the buzzer before the question was finished. After buzzing in, the team was allowed a 15 second time slot to deliberate and reach a final answer. If answered incorrectly, the opposing team could steal the question and allowed a five second time slot to deliberate.
"This is the first time I had seen so many kids in these different age groups together interacting. I was utterly impressed with them," said Klochkov. "The kids were amazing. First grade was as amazing as the fifth grade."
Klochkov had help from a planning committee. Moms, volunteers, teachers and the Principals helped contribute to the games.
The PTO donated money, and also sent out request for parents to volunteer and/or donate. With the money, the committee was able to buy T-shirts which students wore in the competitions. Flags for each country were printed out and threaded with yarn for the kids to wear.
"I'm really happy with the feedback that's been given," said Principal Burns. "Even though it's competitiveness, I also like the team work element of it, being a good winner and a graceful loser. It's been really nice. I would like to see it come back."
There have been thoughts of adjusting the competition and tweaking it to make it better for the future. Although with all the work that was put into the competition, the concept of the games worked out well for the school and participants involved.
"The most important people are the kids and the teachers," said Klockov. "The kids are so brilliant and we have to give that to the teachers. These kids have retained this information because of how it has been taught and been used. Whatever they're doing is working. I'm impressed with the Shongum School."