Two Waldo County elementary schools staged winter carnivals this week, wrapping up a month of activities revolving around science, technology, engineering, art and math as part of the annual WinterKids Winter Games competition.

The outdoor physical activity and nutrition program encourages young children to develop healthy habits over the course of four weeks each January. Last year, Ames Elementary School in Searsmont won Silver, placing second in the state.

This year Ames brought in representatives from several community organizations to help with its celebration Jan. 30, including members of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment's Belfast office, Sgt. Aaron Cross of the Warden Service, Jim Roberts and Anthony Kimball from Randall Collins VFW Post 3108 in Belfast, and Olivia Matthews, Sara Kunesh, Sophie Richdale, Harmony Dawson and Lindsey Cross of Belfast Area High School.

This is the second year Cross has volunteered, and he said it is “fun to be a part of.” He manned the balance beam station where students shifted their body weight on a wooden board while the base rotated. “This activity helps with their balance,” he said. ‘We talked about activities they do now which relate to this, like snowboarding and skiing.”

Cross said besides teaching students coordination, the interaction builds a relationship, and also helps students understand what the Warden Service does.

Karl Haslauer of the Coast Guard office asked, “How much chaos do you want?” referring to the bubbles that result from mixing baking soda and vinegar and adding food coloring. Students crowded around in a circle to view the snow volcanoes and watch the bubbling chemical reaction unfold.

Lori Smail, principal at Ames, said there was a sense of community felt throughout the day. “Students were happy to be outside and they were engaged in each activity, even with the temperatures in the low 20s,” she said. “The activities really had students using their science and engineering brains… .”

Second-grade teacher Briana Brennick added, “…it was a fun day of engineering and thinking about science which even carried over into the classrooms at the end of our day.”

At Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport, Waldo County's other participating school this year, the winter carnival took place Jan. 29, with students learning about orienteering with scout leader Dale Rowley. Students headed outside to take compass readings and move around an outdoor map drawn out on the playground, while Rolo Luna, a mechanical engineer, showed students how to build a base that would sustain great weight.

“Students and staff enjoyed a fun-filled morning while learning,” Principal Dawn Moore said. “The sled racing was a blast.”

Moore said over 300 people attended the school’s WinterKids Family Night the previous week. “Families gathered on the Smith School playground to enjoy the winter weather with activities including sledding, snowshoeing, fort building and a bonfire warming area," she said. “It was an amazing event for all.”

The program, now in its third year, encourages outdoor physical activity and promotes healthy habits. In addition to the $5,000 grand prize for Gold, there is $3,000 for Silver, and $1,500 for Bronze, plus numerous equipment and field trip prizes for participating schools. Winners are expected to be announced Feb. 5.

“WinterKids has provided Smith School students with fun, educational outdoor activities, brought families together and made January one of the most exciting months of the year,” Moore said.