Every four years, we watch and cheer as athletes from countries all over the world compete in the Summer Olympics. I love the Olympics! Despite the conflicts between countries that may be occurring at that time, it seems that the Olympics embody what the world could and should be. We cheer for those representing our country, but we also cheer for those who may not win a medal but have overcome adversities to be on the world stage.
I also love the Olympics for the opportunities it provides for students to learn about so many different aspects of the Games. Encourage your students to read articles or books or watch the Olympics on TV to get some background knowledge, then have them brainstorm questions they may have. Here are a few examples:
Social Studies - Where and why did the first Olympic Games begin? How did the games evolve from those humble beginnings to become the world-wide event it is today? In what ways have the modern day Olympics changed from its original inception? What is the economic impact of the Olympic Games on a country?
Science -- Science is an integral part of the Olympics. Look at the swimsuits the swimmers are wearing and compare them to the ones they wore in the last Olympics (which are now banned). How does technology help athletes' performance? This AAAS Science NetLinks page has wonderful lessons and makes a key connection between science/technology and Olympics athletes.
Math -- The Olympics provide many opportunities for math, not just for graphing medal counts. Check out these relevant questions related to math in Go for the Gold from the NY Times or review these questions on Olympic Circles then examine the countries that are participating and their population, and predict which countries will win the most medals. Students can also compare times for the different races and come up with a statement about length of the race and difference in times between the competitors.
Personal/Social -- There are so many stories of Olympic athletes who have overcome obstacles to stand on the podium. Wilma Rudolph, Jesse Owens, and Duke Kahanamoku are but a few examples. Read "Leadership Lessons from Olympic Athletes" and learn what makes these Olympic athletes stand out from others who may be equally talented. This is a great opportunity to discuss goal-setting and developing a plan of action for the school year. Students would then track their progress on their personal goal.
Teachers can integrate other content areas into a study of the Olympics such as:
Health - How do Olympians train to be at their optimal performance level? What do they eat?
Art - What is the significance of the artwork on the medals? Have students design a medal and explain the significance of their design.
Culminating Activity - Have students plan a grade level Olympics. Wouldn't it be fun to apply what they've learned to plan some fun activities which integrate science, math, art, and language arts?
Resources - These are a few of the resources available for teachers to teach about the Olympics. (Teachervision is only free for the first 5 resources you view. After that, there is a cost to subscribe.)
School begins on Monday. An Olympics interdisciplinary unit is a great way to incorporate rigor, relevance, and relationships into the classroom!