Last month, Class 5 students celebrated the Olympics in their Physical Education classes by learning all about one of the winter games’ most curious sports… curling!
As PE Teacher Carlton Farrier sprinkled soft, snow-white cotton balls around the gym to “set the stage,” the students gathered on the floor and turned their attention to their special guest, Upper School Math Teacher Dr. John Noble. An amateur curler, Dr. Noble visited the class to teach the students about this unusual sport.
The girls listened intently as he explained that the curling stone, which the athletes push down a runway of ice about the length of a basketball court, weighs 42 pounds and is made of granite from Scotland, where the game originated during medieval times. “There are only two places in the world that produce these stones,” Dr. Noble shared. “Scotland and Canada.”
During a curling match, the stone is slid smoothly towards a set of rings known as “the house.” The objective is to get your team’s stones closer to the center of the rings than your opponent’s. “The scoring is similar to [the Italian game] bocce,” Dr. Noble added. A team scores a point only when its stone is closest to the center.
One of the strangest features of curling is the sweeping of the ice ahead of the stone with special brooms. Dr. Noble passed his broom around for the students to feel, along with a pair of Teflon-bottomed curling shoes (perfect for gliding on the ice). The students were amazed at how light the broom felt in their hands, and Dr. Noble explained that it is made of lightweight carbon fiber to allow for fast sweeping.
After a teammate has released the stone, the sweepers follow alongside it, using their brooms to speed it up, slow it down, and direct where it goes. Their sweeping applies pressure to the ice, lightly melting it, and allows them to steer the stone either towards the center of the house or towards an opponent’s stone to knock it out of play. “The best curlers are good judges of how fast the stone is going and when they should sweep or not sweep,” Dr. Noble added. Each team’s captain is stationed at the end of the ice and shouts instructions to the sweepers as they go. “When you watch curling you’ll often hear the captains yelling ‘Hard! Hurry hard!’ when they want the sweepers to sweep faster or harder,” he shared.
To demonstrate, Dr. Noble showed the students video clips of some of the most impressive curling shots of 2017. The gym erupted with gasps of excitement as they watched close calls and teams knocking their opponents’ stones out of the way. The game seemed to take on more meaning now that the students understood the strategy behind it, and they were ready to try it for themselves.
Since, unfortunately, she could not fill the gym with ice, Ms. Farrier created a modified version of curling that her students could play on the wood floors. They broke up into four teams (China, Switzerland, Canada, and Norway), and spread out around the gym. With Dr. Noble close at hand to offer pointers, the teams took turns sliding colorful plastic domes towards the center of the gym, mimicking the techniques they had just observed. “First you slide, next you push the stone, and then you release,” the teachers reminded them. High-fives and cheers of excitement rang through the gym as the teams got closer and closer to reaching the center with each turn.
Thanks to this modified curling game, and background from Dr. Noble, these Class 5 students were left with a deeper understanding of one of the iconic sports that makes the Winter Olympics unique.
Browse photos from the class below: