Opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games held at K.I. Sawyer Elementary School

GWINN – K.I. Sawyer Elementary School students got a little taste of just how big the world is as they participated in their very own opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games earlier this month.

Principal Sandy Petrovitch said the event – the first of its kind for the school – was meant to help teach the kids about places outside their immediate area.

Petrovitch said the work the kids put into learning about their assigned countries helped foster in them a sense that the world is much larger than what they experience on a daily basis.

“For some of them, the world is limited to where their cars go,” Petrovitch said.

She added that the exercise helped students learn a number of skills, from public speaking to learning how to do research.

And hopefully, it may have helped them identify any one of the 88 nations participating in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, as they marched during the opening ceremonies, proudly waving their countries’ flag.

Dozens of countries were represented in the Sawyer ceremonies, from Finland to Japan, Brazil to Russia, Italy to England.

The students researched their assigned countries, learning basic facts such as national language and traditional pastimes. They also looked into what sports the countries were sending athletes to participate in.

As they marched into the gym, the students held their homemade flags high, waving them excitedly with the Olympic theme song playing in the background.

Following the parade, each class presented to the more than 500 students gathered in the gym about their countries, telling them fun facts and interesting details such as the amount of time Finland’s kids spend at recess every day – 72 minutes – and the amount of macaroni and cheese consumed by Canadians every year – more than any other nation on Earth.

As an added bonus, after each country was presented, the students were treated to a short talk given by three athletes from the United States Olympic Training Site located on the campus of Northern Michigan University,

Juniors Ryan Borges and Chris Young, both weightlifters, and sophomore Austin Morrow, a Greco-Roman wrestler, each spoke to the students about training for the Olympics.

Borges demonstrated proper weightlifting technique and even offered a little inspiration to the students.

“I was about the same age as most of the fifth-graders when I first thought about being an Olympic weightlifter,” Borges said. “At first it was a dream, then that dream became a reality.”

Borges, who volunteers with the Special Olympics, said he likes to take opportunities to talk to kids about achieving their dreams.

The students were excited to meet the Olympic hopefuls, asking for autographs after the assembly concluded.