vancouver olympics, vancouver olympic games
Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press/AP Photo
People walk past lanterns illuminated in downtown Vancouver, B.C., as part of Lunar Fest,
a lantern forest made up of 40 steel trees with 2,010 lanterns decorated by school children
in Canada and Taiwan, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2010.

The Vancouver Olympics in the Classroom

February 12, 2010 12:40 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Incorporating the Vancouver Olympic Games into classroom lesson plans and activities can help generate students’ excitement for science and sportsmanship.

Making Science Fun

The challenge of making science exciting for students was addressed by scientist and author Brian Greene in a June 2008 op-ed for The New York Times. Greene discussed why science is so important, but noted that students often miss out on the fun. Many students gladly taking advantage of “the innovations that science makes possible” without realizing the broader implications and relevance of the subject, he suggests.

Greene advises integrating recent scientific studies into curriculum to encourage students’ imagination, and generate interest in preceding and future scientific discoveries. “We rob science education of life when we focus solely on results and seek to train students to solve problems and recite facts,” Greene writes.

Olympic sports can be the starting points for many scientific lessons. For example, how does a skier stand up straight after flying full speed down the steepest of slopes? And what are the physics behind the thin blade of a speed skater’s footwear?

Olympic Science

Science of the Olympic Winter Games is the result of a partnership between NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation. The series features 16 videos revealing scientific aspects of different Olympic sports, such as speed skating and bobsledding. According to NBC Learn, one of the goals of the project is to “make science more accessible and more interesting to students” and to demonstrate the influence of science on athletes’ fulfillment of Olympic grace and strength. 

Popular Mechanics explains “The Science Behind 7 Winter Olympic Events, including alpine skiing and curling. Olympic skiers, for example, are subjected to 3.5g’s, which exceeds the amount endured by space shuttle astronauts. Ted Ligety, defending Olympic gold medalist in combined skiing, tells Popular Mechanics, “A lot of us can leg-press 900 pounds, but that’s easy compared to this race.”

Olympics Lesson Plans

Although the sites in this section focus on Canadian teachers and schools, the lesson plans and activities are great starting points for use in any classroom.

The Canadian school portal for the Olympic and Paralympic Games features teacher resources, organized by grade level and subject area, as well as new classroom activities integrating media coverage and commentary about the Vancouver Games. Look for a searchable database of lesson-starters, and PDF versions of “fully developed unit plans” with “assessment rubrics” and “student assignment instructions.”

Sharing the Dream is led by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, and features newsletters full of ideas on how to incorporate the Olympic Games into the classroom, such as the Student Reporter Program. Olympic-themed lesson starters and a student Webcast series are also available. 

Background: Science in US Schools

In a February 2009 study by researchers at Western Michigan University, it was shown that science students learn as well through experimentation as they do through direct instruction, according to United Press International.

Although many educators take into account that the United States falls behind other countries in science education, they do not see standardized testing as the answer to the problem. Instead, new methods of teaching and new classroom structures are seen as keys for making science more engaging for students.

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