Here Come the Olympics!

I love the Olympics! Ask my family, I get excited as the Olympics gets closer. When I was teaching I always did some activities with my class related to the Olympics. As Principal, I made sure that our student run morning news had a medal count. I am secretly even happier with my decision to become an educational consultant because next month I can be glued to the TV to watch the Winter Olympics!

My youngest son just read this opening paragraph and said, ‘That is true. The Olympics are like your favorite thing.’ I think I love the Olympics, partially because I love watching sporting events. But the Olympics are special. Maybe it is because it is not an everyday thing or even an every year event. The scarcity of viewing opportunities adds to the mystique.

But I did grow to love the Olympics even more once I became a teacher. The stories of the athletes and getting views of another country or an area of the United States make the Olympics ripe for educational opportunities. This may be why I continue to get excited for the Olympics! So let me expand on the typical and maybe the not so typical ways to incorporate the Olympics into your classrooms and schools.

  • Present a LittleBits Snowball Challenge to students. LittleBits are snap together electronics for experimenting with circuit design. Students will need to work in small teams to create a device to throw a paper snowball (make one snowball for all teams to throw to make this the constant in this challenge). The team who throws it the furthest wins this Olympic event. You, or the students, can design several events with LittleBits.
  • For the younger students, design Kinderlab Robotics Kibo courses. Students will first program Kibo to complete the course then add the element of timing how long it takes for Kibo to complete the course. Let older students design the course. 
  •  Another snowball Olympic event could involve designing a ramp for a snowball to slide down. In the Ramp Snowball Challenge, you can first introduce vocabulary such as acceleration, elevation, and friction. Or let students discover these ideas and put labels to them after. I have found giving students reflection time on their attempts is a great closure activity that solidifies their new understandings. 
  • Learning about the science behind sports is an engaging way to interest students in science concepts. Try Sports Science from ESPN, google ESPN Sport Science Winter for cold weather sports. Another website is Share other sports science finds on Twitter, @edtechease.

What about other curriculum areas? 

  • Biography reading of past winter Olympians is a tried and true way to integrate the Olympics into your Language Arts curriculum. This can also be an introduction to how a particular sport has evolved, from a procedural basis or from a social standing perspective (women in sports or racial diversity).
  • Along this idea: Research projects to be presented with Keynote/Powerpoint or as a vlog, blog, or timeline. Topics can be the biography suggested already or how the particular sport has evolved. Or let the students choose a winter Olympic country and its athletes. Older students might like to figure out the process for choosing the host country.
  • Write interview questions for the athletes. 
  • Medal Count is a standard but still a great way to do a bit of computation each morning as you check the medal counts. Add the new medals won the previous day. Or subtract the new medal count from the day before’s count.
  • How does the scoring for different Olympic sports work? Students can determine the Total Element Score (TES) for Ice Skating from a given technical element score (TES) and the program component score (PCS).

More Olympic activities:

  • Each grade or class researches a country or sport and then the school has an Opening Ceremony. Maybe the song from the country is sang by the grade/class. Maybe flags are designed to be waved as they parade into the assembly. 
  • Design an emblem for a sport to be worn at the assembly.
  • Physical Education classes are perfect for some Olympic events. Have you tried curling with a broom and a beach ball? Or snowball throwing into a bucket or bowl. Who can get the most or who can make a basket from the farthest distance?

So if you want to find me next month, check my couch. I will be savoring each moment of excitement and even the sorrow. Each athlete deserves our applause for their hard work and commitment to developing their ability.

Have you planned other Olympic activities for February? Share on Twitter, @edtechease or Facebook,

Originally posted on Thursday, 18 January 2018.

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