Academic Olympics: A Golden Educational Tool
it wasn't Barcelona, Atlanta, or Sydney. But, in many ways, the
District 8 Bronx Academic Olympics couldn't have been more enticing,
demanding, and chuck-full-of thrills for all who participated
as the “real thing.
This, of course, was no coincidence. “We do everything we
can to make this an Olympian experience for the students, District
Director of Social Studies John-Paul Bianchi (aka The Father of
the Academic Olympics) said. “I think there's so much about
the Games discipline, self-sacrifice, team-work the students
can learn from, beyond the academics.
The feeling in the spacious P.S. 101 auditorium was Olympian,
indeed. From the line-up of the nine teams for the Opening Ceremonies,
to the Presentation of Colors, to the 30-40 strong squads marching
in to the stirring sounds of the International Olympic Anthem,
the difference between this event and The Games was merely in
the size of the competitors (pint-sized instead of muscle-bound)
and the nature of the competition (intellectual vs. physical).
Even though the atmosphere was good-natured and fun, you could
also sense tension in the air.
The lighting of the Olympic Torch a funky-looking, student-made
contraption turned torch-like by electricity and wind-power. Then
things got serious.
we going to see any smiles on this team? a few officials teased
as I.S. 125 marched in. Finals opponents, purple-clad I.S. 192,
was bedecked with good-luck beads, and multi-colored papier-m«chͺ
hair-ornaments. One girl even sported toy devil's-horns on her
head. “She wants to win, principal Maria Paese, who cried
when she saw her kids march in, said. “I am the emotional
Principal, she explained. “My kids are just like me. They
work hard, then they like to have a good time.
the teams, and all the coaches, in this competition have a different
style, by-the-books I25 coach Dan Evangelista said. “And
that's fine. Whatever works. I just want my kids to respect the
discipline and all the hard work that went into this. The students,
the teachers, the coaches, we've all been meeting since February
almost every morning at 7:30 a.m., and after school, and on weekends
to prepare for this competition. So, yes, we're serious.
But seriously, the Academic Olympics is an intellectual competition
for middle school students in Grades 6-8 in four disciplines:
English/ Language Arts, Math and Science, Social Studies and Omnibus
General Trivia. Hundreds of students in all of the District's
nine schools auditioned to be on their team. About 30-40 of them
is a wonderful educational tool, said Bianchi. “Due to
the competitive aspect of the Games, the kids work really hard,
in many cases much harder than if this was just another one of
their regular classes. We also try to make the questions more
than just factual, to get beyond memorization, to encourage logical,
creative, contextual thinking. And the discipline, focus and togetherness
that's developed through this is priceless.
And so was the great display of sportsmanship. After the team
from I25 put a serious defeat onto their bedeviled opponents,
I92 lined up to congratulate and hug each and every winner. Without
any encouragement from coaches or teachers. “Aren't they
the greatest kids? a proud Ms. Paese asked.
is what it's all about, what we try to develop in our District:
team work, togetherness, bonds of trust, and love, Community
Superintendent Dr. Betty Rosa, who handed out the Gold Medals
to I25, said. “And these Academic Olympics have not only
been an excellent academic tool but a wonderful instrument for
developing those things as well. So why aren't other Districts
doing something so simple, something that can be so cheaply done?
“You tell me, Dr. Rosa said, shrugging her shoulders in
frustration. “ I think we've set a really wonderful example
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