Tuesday’s third-grade physical education class at Fullerton Elementary School began with students crouching down to take aim, eyeing a large red and blue target on the gym floor.
It was the first time for most members of the class to try out curling as a sport, pushing the pucks known as “stones” across the room in order to beat out their opponent.
Four classes at Fullerton, an Omaha Public Schools elementary in northwest Omaha, have been introduced to curling this week in a learn to curl program hosted by the Omaha Sports Commission and sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
This is the second time the program has come to metro Omaha schools, involving about 1,500 students in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials for curling at Baxter Arena.
The Sports Commission and UNO brought modified curling kits into elementary schools to offer new curriculum for three days this week, said Abbey Henrichs, UNO's assistant director of student success events.
The classes will teach students how to do the sport before they attend the Trials on Thursday.
“They will be learning about it and then they will come and watch it,” Henrichs said. “We enjoy getting the kids to come and see Baxter and our campus.”
Lindsey Skwira, the physical education teacher at Fullerton, said she prepared for two weeks by researching and watching curling videos before teaching her students curling.
“Some of them know, some of them think they know and some of them have no idea (what it is),” she said. ”But once they start doing it, then they totally get into it.”
About eight out of 17 students said they knew what curling was before Tuesday's class started, but all of them quickly got the hang of it in anticipation of Thursday’s field trip.
The modified kits had four curling stones each and a target tarp, since the students were in a gym and not on ice. Teams of two worked against each other to try to accumulate the most points by shooting their stones as close to the target as possible.
Eva Bahl said it was the first time she had seen or tried the sport. The third-grader has participated in soccer since she was 4 years old and is also a softball player — so using only her hands to win a game doesn’t exactly come easy.
“My teacher played a video about it, but I didn’t know too much before coming here,” Eva said. “I really think it will be fun to watch.”
Baxter Arena is hosting the trials, which began Friday and run through Sunday, in preparation for the 2022 U.S. Olympics in Beijing. Skwira said she’s been trying to get her students to understand the importance of the trials before they go on Thursday.
“I keep trying to tell them that this is cool, this is in our own city and it's a big deal that the Olympics are here,” Skwira said. “They think that's cool and they are super excited.”
Photos: U.S. Olympic Team Trials for curling, Tuesday