JANESVILLE

Think ice hockey with the addition of tag. Or bobsledding with a side of hula-hooping.

This week, Washington Elementary School third-graders celebrated the opening of the Winter Olympics by creating and playing games of their own.

Here’s what they learned: When everybody is having fun, the scoring doesn’t matter.

Also, things don’t always work out like you expect.

The first game was based on ice hockey. When students made goals, they had to run over to a soft plastic dome called a blaster and step on it, shooting a ball at a target.

However, if a student from the other team was able to tag the first student, the first student lost the chance to earn extra points.

Confused? We were, but the kids were not. They got up and started to play immediately, the syncopated sounds of plastic hockey sticks cracking against each other drowning out any doubts about the rules.

Delaney King, 8, naturally took to the sport, deftly performing the quick-stop-and-reverse moves for which hockey players are known. She also held the hockey stick like an Olympian—as opposed to an enthusiastic third-grader.

It turns out she’s in gymnastics and plays summer hockey.

We can’t all be stars.

Brecken Combs, 9, one of the game’s inventors, watched the melee with a bemused expression.

“This isn’t how I imagined it,” Combs said to himself.

Combs and his fellow game designers—Brandon Saltz and Lexi Walker, both 9—wanted everybody to have a chance to play, so they created teams of four people.

But having four people on each team meant that each hockey/tag/blaster court had to be fairly small.

Combs and Saltz worried that somebody might get hurt. Players were getting too close to the goalies. With a larger court, they could create creases in front of each goal just like in regular ice hockey.

But nobody got hurt—no blood, no foul—and they could always make changes. Baseball wasn’t created in a day, either.

The next game had elements of bobsledding—sort of.

Students started by rolling across the gym floor on a scooter, which is like a four-wheeled sled. With a running start, a scooter will carry a grown woman across the gym.

The kids launched themselves via scooter to a jump rope in the center of a hula hoop. They then jumped 10 times, hula-hooped for five seconds, stepped up and down on hard foam blocks and then returned to the start.

Points were awarded for the fastest time.

We think.

Once the kids got started, they ran through the course over and over again, and nobody kept track of the score.

It was a big hit.

“It gets your heart pumping, and you use your muscles,” Issac Tearman, 8, said during feedback time.

Hailey Williamson, 8, liked it because “you got to do a lot of stuff.”

All that fun couldn’t happen without a equal dose of learning. Modern educational standards require every activity to be infused with academic rigor. A kid can’t launch a spitball without considering that force equals mass times acceleration.

Before they could have fun, students had to research and write about the different countries and sports involved in the Winter Olympics. The library media specialist created marble ramps to help them through the basic physics concepts of motion and momentum.

Physical education teacher Sherry Hintz was at the center of game creation.

Again, modern educational standards being what they are, she had to talk about the benefits of such an exercise, such as working together as a team, learning to accept feedback and empowering learning choices.

Hintz also participated in games when an extra player was needed and—this should be kept secret—she looked like she was having a lot of fun.

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