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Gold-Medal Learning: Teaching with the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics are coming up in a few weeks! Will you be watching with your students? Even more - will you use this as a teaching opportunity? Below are a few ideas and resources for taking advantage of Sochi 2014 to win some gold-medal authentic learning!

Mathematics

As you watch the Olympics, have students create tables of results, graph the data points and make predictions based on athlete records. Even more simple: have them practice their decimals knowledge by analyzing finishing times. To jazz it up, check out this amazing piece about winning times and music!

Another interesting project for older students is to investigate the economic impact for the host city. How does hosting a global event affect the local economy before, during and after the games? Have each group take a different city and research these questions then compare notes.

Geometry can have some air time as well - how are those Olympic villages designed? What is the proportion of housing required to athletes, support staff, etc? How many square miles or kilometers are they on average? What else should be considered when designing a "temporary" city?

Literacy and Social Studies

This one might seem pretty obvious, but it would be great to have students take on countries and research them. Over the course of the Olympics, have them track the wins for their "native country" and graph them! Additionally, have them learn about their teams, which events they are competing in and how they prepare. They could also learn about native sports and cultural "good luck" rituals.

In Literacy, I've had my students research and read folk tales from their chosen nation and write a few of their own. I've even had students try to research their athletes and some have chosen to incorporate these "characters" into their folktale.

While these activities are certainly worthwhile, we can up our game by taking advantage of digital tools. One of the great things about the Olympic games is how it connects disparate cultures and countries across the world. Bringing this spirit into the classroom is now possible with video conferencing and back channelling tools. Consider connecting to schools in other competing countries and jump on a Skype or Google Hangout to compare notes, discuss how each community is responding to the games and discuss research. If you can find a classroom who is willing, connect groups of students and have your classes act as "sister cities" throughout the events. Check out the Google Connected Classrooms site and Skype in Schools page for some resources to get started.

Science and Engineering

NBC has an great website of videos with physical science, engineering and health topics to consider. From Stability & Vibration Damping in Alpine Skiing to the Science of Snow, these are great snippets to spark student interest and launch some interesting investigations (especially for those of us who live in snowy climates). 

So, are you using the Winter Olympics to create learning experiences for your kids? Share your lesson ideas below!

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