Even though the 2018 Winter Olympics have drawn to a close, the students at S.J. Preston Elementary School participated in their second Storywalk of the year, G is for Gold, as a tie-in to the Olympic and Paralympic games. As a special treat, the students were able to visit with 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Kim Vandenberg.
Ms. Vandenberg won her Olympic medal by swimming in the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay at the Games in Beijing, China. She spoke with each class and talked about the importance of having big dreams, but she also talked with them about how the path to a dream is rarely straight. Her dream began as a passion for swimming with her brothers in their backyard pool. She began swimming with a local aquatics group and then her high school. She got stronger and faster as she grew.
As a high school student, she had posted times in the butterfly event that were strong enough to attend the Olympic time trials for the 2000 Olympics. Her nerves and lack of experience at this level were contributing factors for not making the team, she said. Instead of giving up her dream, she decided to go to college at UCLA where she was able to attend classes and train and compete among the best collegiate swimmers. She once again competed at the U.S. Olympic qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics – but fell short.
Instead of giving up her dream, Ms. Vandenberg told the students that she concentrated on ways to improve. She examined her diet, making sure she was maximizing her potential based on the fuel she was providing to her body, how much sleep she got, engaged in sports psychology, and other things. At the 2008 Olympic qualifiers, she was ready. She did make the team – but not in the sport she felt she would. She qualified in freestyle rather than butterfly, and she and her teammates captured the bronze medal.
After her talk, every student had the opportunity to meet her one-on-one and actually see an Olympic medal.
The Storywalk continued throughout the day. Students went from station to station reading parts of G is for Gold. One station focused on math (can you jump as high as the high jump and counting how many medals each country won) and another on athletics (Ancient tug of war). Students were asked to identify on a map which countries had hosted Olympic games as part of the geography station, and there were others for writing (poetry) and social studies (learning about the different types of protective headgear is worn during which event and in what period of time).
The third and final Storywalk for this year will be March 23.