Going for Gold: Creating Engaging Winter Olympics Themed Lessons

sochi-2014-262145_1280By: Mary Ware for LearnWell

The Olympic Games are some of the most watched, and most celebrated TV moments in history. From inspiring stories and dramatic finishes to daredevil moves, the Olympic Games offer an opportunity to explore many different avenues of sportsmanship, culture, and yes, even science—making them a perfect theme for classroom based lessons. With the 2018 Winter Olympics beginning Friday, February 9th, there is no better time than now to allow students the chance to learn, celebrate, and find new heroes to admire.

The 23rd Winter Olympics, held February 9th-25th in PyeongChang, South Korea It will feature 102 events in 15 sports. Here are some ways to tie the Olympic Games into upcoming lesson plans.


Historical Moments

The 2018 Olympics have already set themselves up to complement history lessons. For the first time in over a decade, South Korea and North Korea are considering walking in the Opening Ceremonies together, and even are requesting approval from the Olympic Committee to have a joint ice hockey team. This historic occasion lays the groundwork for discussion regarding the past unity of both Koreas, the Korean War, and the current differences that exist between North and South, both in politics and daily living.

Keeping with the theme, lessons focused on the actual history of the Olympics themselves makes for great content. Whether it is noting when certain countries joined for the first time, the first time women were allowed to compete, or when certain sports were added (such as big air snowboarding this year), there are many ways to divulge into how the history and the historical context of such events took place.


The Science Behind the Olympic Games

While some students may think that the Olympics are just about sports, and who can play better than their opponent, the Olympic Games have incredible science behind events, arenas, and even the clothing that athletes wear. What a great chance to bring in STEM education! Help budding scientists explore the engineering, physics and design behind the Olympics, with lessons and activities tailored to various levels. NBC Learn offers a unique look at the science of this things through their educational videos on popular sports, including the physics behind figure skating, the process of designing and building faster and safer bobsleds, or exploring the engineering behind half-pipes and competition suits.

For younger students, the Winter Olympics are a great time to try out STEM projects related to ice and science as well.


Incorporate Other Subjects As Well

With so much to watch and learn about during the Olympics, practically every academic area could benefit from incorporating the theme and spirit of the games. Students can explore and create medals for an art project, craft a timeline with dates and time spans for math, or compare and contrast the winter and summer games during comprehension exercises. With countless books on the subject, the Olympics also makes a great starting point for literacy activities and biographies.


Honing in on Effort & Respecting Others

No matter the grade level, all students can relate to the trials and successes of the Olympic athletes, which paves the way for class discussions and activities on perseverance, and the effort it takes to achieve a dream. The global nature of the games makes for a strong platform to discuss cultural differences and respecting the culture and background each individual has to offer. These topics can be especially inspiring for students undergoing difficult circumstances, as seeing how athletes have risen above their challenges to accomplish their goals can motivate them to keep trying in regards to their own struggles.

With so many fun and engaging ways to bring the Winter Olympics to the classroom, students are bound to find something that excites them and helps them connect on a personal level to the Olympic Games.

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