A Cold Theme
I could have used some colder weather in Houston to make this theme more fun, but we only get the chance to focus on winter sports (in Houston) once every four years. And since the TVs and papers were bombarding us with coverage for 2 weeks, I decided we should go for it!
It was a little tricky finding some props for the table, since I no longer have any ski or skate equipment. But I dug out some pretty fun goodies that belonged to my mom's doll. The skis were fun because little has changed with the look of women's figure skates over the years. The mini leather skates were a good reminder of what women wear on the ice. But the skis were a good reminder of what skis have never looked like. At least I've never seen dainty, black Mary Jane shoes attached to skis!
More Toy Props
For some more modern props, I unburied the old Playmobile collection. These toys were actually pretty helpful in our discussion of the equipment used in the Olympics today. It made us wonder about helmets and when they started using them. It got us off on tangents about the Jamaican Bobsled team and the numerous competitions involving skis and snowboards today.
Porcupine on Skills
This little guy prompted some story telling. I told about how I presented this skiing porcupine to my husband on Valentine's Day in 1980. It was a silly gift, but we were riding on a bus headed out to watch the downhill skiing at the Lake Placid Olympics.
As we sat on the bus that day, I reminded my husband that a year earlier we had celebrated our first Valentine's Day together. On February 14, 1979 we hadn't been dating long, so when Don mentioned purchasing tickets for the 1980 Olympics I just wondered about the lucky friend or relative he would take along. It never occurred to me that we would be married and attending the Olympics together.
Photos Trigger Snow Memories
There were no Olympians in my groups, so I hoped to hear stories about skiing or skating or even sledding. And there were some great ones.
Ken had a story about skiing in Quebec as a young man. He told about his friend who suffered a complicated injury (on the rope lift, not the slopes) and was cared for by nuns in a Canadian hospital. Ken accompanied his friend on the train journey back to the US and remembered how the friend had to be lifted on his stretcher through the train window. Dorothy described the sled made by her brothers from wood and a tub. Dorothy and her young sisters were placed in the tub and pushed down the hill. I loved Dorothy's smile as she told the story. Rita had another story about brothers and sleds. This one involved holding onto mud flaps of trucks or attaching to car bumpers...for some very exciting rides! These folks had much better stories than mine!
I figured I should have some games up my sleeve in case our theme grew dull. I hardly needed the games but we did have a few. Our favorite trivia question was, "Who was the oldest Olympian?" (an 83 year old British curler in 1924) In one group, we created our own snow ball throwing Olympic category. Our white foam ball got a little wild as we tried to toss it across the table into the Olympic cap.) We also had a little fun placing the 5 colored Olympic rings in proper order on the table.
... we had more fun, trying to place them in order...off the table!
Everyone recognized the Olympic Fanfare, Buglar's Dream, written by Leo Arnauds in the 1930's. This piece, heard on TV coverage since 1968, made everyone smile. "It makes me proud to be an American!" I heard from one group member. That made me smile, because I wasn't even sure she was a citizen.
After playing the inspiring Fanfare, I asked everyone to be quiet and just listen to the next piece. It started softly with violins. As the music grew louder and began to gain speed, I saw a few bodies begin to sway. "Skater's Waltz!" I heard a voice in my first group. I had them imagine the tracks made by the skates as they moved on the ice to this music. I pulled out paper and chalk and let them move their hand over the paper to the 1,2,3 rhythm of the music.
Skating Around the Quilt
Each group reacted a little differently to the Skater's Waltz. Some closed eyes and swayed. Some were eager to point out specific instruments and tempo changes.
Some folks playfully paired up with the person sitting nearby and reached both hands across... for a sort of silly "paired swaying!" But my group at the Community Center took the idea the furthest and created a circle with linked hand holding around the square quilt. As the music played the group swayed along. Some even did a little skating under the table...and ALL did some laughing. We had a fun time imagining what we would actually look like on the ice!
What I learned?
I was totally surprised that all groups with so many different abilities and backgrounds and interests and ages could relate to this theme. I had expected to have a few disinterested in a theme of winter sports, but all seemed to come in with a certain amount of knowledge and interest. Why? I think I have to thank TV coverage. For many without cable, the Olympics has been about the only choice for 2 weeks. Because of that, everyone seemed to be united with a certain amount of Olympics Knowledge. So thanks TV! You made this extra fun for me!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.