The Winter Olympic Games were half-a-world away in the Russian city of Sochi, but that didn't stop local schools from using them as an opportunity for teaching and some friendly competition.

In Shirley, William Floyd Elementary School held a mock opening ceremony and a parade of nations, with students separated into groups representing different countries. Joe Mensch, a former student who fell short of qualifying for the games, also visited the school.

In Elwood, James H. Boyd Intermediate School hosted a "Potato Olympics," with students using decorated potatoes in activities ranging from potato bowling to potato curling.

Meanwhile, the middle school in Carle Place hosted a mock Olympics, with 120 students separated into 12 teams to compete in such activities as tug-of-war, trivia and three-legged egg races. The event raised about $500 for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that offers programs and services for veterans wounded in military action.

"It's a great event that gets the students moving as a team," said Lauren Palma, a math teacher at the school who was the event's co-coordinator. "It gives them their own unique experience, as well as an opportunity to showcase their sportsmanship while supporting a great cause."

In Elmont, Covert Avenue Elementary School held a Greek Olympics in which sixth-grade classes took on the role of city-states such as Athens, Sparta and Troy. They competed in games including javelin, discus and chariot races, using a scooter to simulate a chariot.

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COLD SPRING HARBOR

Creating e-books

West Side Elementary School's third-graders have been tapping into their creative sides through a pilot program in which they are authoring five-chapter electronic books to share with family and friends.

The books, made using the apps Book Creator and Dropbox, cover topics ranging from training dogs to horseback riding to surviving the first week of third grade.

"This is much more exciting to kids than traditional publishing, and we hope to build a true e-book library in our elementary schools," technology specialist Deborah Levesque said.

In other news, a group of 17 male teachers recently competed to see who could grow the longest beard as part of a "Manuary" contest, with students and staff donating food items to support their choice for the winner. Nearly 3,350 food items -- twice last year's total -- was collected for local food pantries.

 

ISLIP

Teens for Jeans

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Islip High School's Junior Chamber of Commerce recently collected 373 pairs of new and gently used jeans as part of a Teens for Jeans campaign, spearheaded by clothing retailer Aéropostale and dosomething.org, a nonprofit that aims to encourage youth to get involved in social change.

The jeans were distributed to teens living in local homeless shelters.

"This program helps build character and compassion among high school students," said Renée Clock, the junior chamber's adviser. "It also increases awareness among teens of social responsibility and encourages them to take leadership roles in the community."

 

RIVERHEAD

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Water challenge

Riverhead Middle School students and staff recently joined in an effort to raise awareness about water crises in various locations worldwide by pledging to drink only water for two weeks.

Participants solicited donations from family and friends based on their pledge, with the funds benefiting The Water Project, a nonprofit based in Concord, N.H. The money will help pay for the digging of a well in an underprivileged country, which costs about $15,000.

The effort stemmed from Mindy Benze's English classes reading Linda Sue Park's novel, "A Long Walk to Water." Marcele Davis, one of Benze's students, also created an online presentation to help raise awareness about the topic.


ISLANDWIDE

Scholar nominations

The College at Old Westbury is inviting Long Island educators to nominate students in grades 4-9 to be a Long Island Scholar of Math and earn one of 80 spots in its Institute for Creative Problem Solving for Gifted and Talented Students.

The institute will hold weekly workshops in math and science problem-solving on Saturday mornings during the 2014-15 school year.

Candidates must submit an application, teacher recommendation, transcript and two self-addressed, stamped envelopes by March 14 to be eligible for a placement exam on April 5. Last year, 950 students were nominated from local schools.

For the application form, educators can email program assistant Mimi Schnier at schnierm@oldwestbury.edu. Parents may forward this information to their child's school.