On Friday morning, Soda Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Ellie Kavanaugh was thinking about Olympic moguls skiing.
As she prepared to represent the sport of skeleton and the country of Australia during an Olympic-themed ceremony at Howelsen Hill, Ellie said moguls are fun to ski and watch, making them one of her favorite Olympic events.
A school-wide assembly featuring presentations by students and short speeches from former Olympians helped Ellie get in the spirit.
“It makes me really pumped to have the Olympics so close,” Ellie said.
The morning started with a torch relay from Soda Creek Elementary to Howelsen Hill, with the school’s more than 450 students displaying shirts matching the colors of the Olympic flag and banners from more than 20 competing nations.
Shannon Casson, a physical education teacher who organized the event, said the exercise from that walk supported the educational experience of the opening ceremonies.
“It was just a great way to bring the school together,” Casson said. The opening ceremony gave each grade a chance to participate, making the event “a great learning opportunity” for all the students involved, she said.
Each class made a flag from a different country during art class to carry during the ceremony. During P.E. classes, students have been participating in modified versions of Winter Olympic events, with activities including ski jumping on a trampoline and curling with beanbags, Casson said.
Nine former Olympians were on hand Friday to give inspirational bits of advice to students and answer questions from student commentators.
Tarsha Ebbern, a freestyle skier who competed in the 1998 games, told the children “if you set your goals and you stick to them, you can achieve anything.” Deb Armstrong, of the 1984 and ’88 Alpine skiing teams, encouraged the students — many of them wearing Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club jackets — to “find something that you love to do, because to become really good at something, it takes a lot of work.” Billy Kidd, of the ’64 and ’68 Alpine teams, told the young audience to “dream big.”
Soda Creek Elementary music teacher Amy Larson said those inspiring words added to an already successful day. After starting work on the ceremony just after Thanksgiving, Larson said it was rewarding to see it come together. The music teacher led the students in several songs during the event while other students performed juggling and streamer dancing routines.
Lori Elliott was one of many Soda Creek Elementary parents who lined the walk down Seventh Street to Howelsen and gathered at the base of the ski hill to watch the festivities. Her fourth-grade daughter, Amber Elliott, was participating. “The spirit of the Olympics and supporting our children” brought Lori Elliott to the event, she said.
Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris said she hoped the students would recognize some of the pageantry of the day in Friday night’s official Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.