It is obviously very exciting that the Olympics are underway in London but I am sure many teaching practitioners will be wondering, “How can I incorporate what has happened into my lessons”. Although much of the work covered will be retrospective, looking back at ‘what happened in the summer’, there are many ideas and topical explorations that can take place. This article intends to stimulate the mind and thoughts about how you could incorporate the Olympic experience into your classroom. It is not a definitive list by any means, but does suggest some subject specific ideas to stimulate thought.
Art & Design:
The Olympics provides athletes with the platform to win, lose, compete, struggle, strive for dreams etc, and in doing so, facial expressions will vary from athlete to athlete. Students could research facial expressions and try to recreate them in a variety of forms- e.g. clay, pencil, paint.
The combination of athletes from across the world can also provide artists with a great challenge to depict the sheer diversity of the event. Diversity can be a great topic for an artist.
Assembly/ Citizenship/ PSHE:
In lecturing to students on the moral expectations of a fulfilling life, the Olympic values provide excellent topical depictions to enthuse students and give them something to relate to: Respect, Excellence, Friendship, Courage, Determination, Inspiration, Equality.
What better event happens on earth for a Biologist to research? Biologists can explore and understand how the body works, adapts under strenuous conditions and recovers. Biologists can look closely at energy production, chemical reactions to provide aerobic and anaerobic performance, the role of the cardiovascular and nervous systems and the mechanisms to recover and repair.
Design & Technology:
The Olympic park in East London is a marvel of engineering, design, technological expertise and creative thinking. Students can study the designs online and the thinking behind the layout or even design their own Olympic park.
There is a wide variety of text written about the Olympics to study but the event also provides a great topic area to allow students to create their own literary work- perhaps describing the event, the success of a particular country or athlete, the emotions evident at the event, the particular highs or lows or simply their own feelings about the event.
Budding Geographers can research the countries involved or focus on a particular country that has taken part and the diverse nature of it’s landscape. The diversity of contrasting countries is there to see when comparing the likes of Tibet to Holland!
The Olympics is rich in history and has obviously had many political ties over the years- e.g. the ‘Nazi’ Olympics, the 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott etc. Students can research the history of the Olympic movement but when concentrating on more defined topics – e.g. World War 2 can study the build up to the war and the impact that the Olympics had at that time. Equally speaking in researching the rise of ‘Black Power’, Jessie Owens’ role cannot be ignored!
The Olympic Games are the biggest sports event worldwide. At the same time their computerised support is the most complex application of Information Technology in sports. Teachers and students can study the fact that today, there is not a single aspect of the Olympic Games, which is not supported by computer systems. The most exposed and visible applications are sport results processing and worldwide information diffusion, however, there is a large number of other areas where computers play an important role, from events schedule planning and maintenance to the support of the Games logistics (participants’ accreditation, arrival/departure, transportation, accommodation, catering, medical assistance, uniforms distribution, etc.). Software supporting all these applications consists of millions of lines of code!!
Depending on the age and ability level of the students being taught, the Olympics provides students with the opportunity to study mathematics in practice- at a basic level from the tape measure being used in the long jump, to the parabolic calculations and vectors that provide detailed analysis of angles, flight path and trajectory. Similarly, the fact the London Olympics has cost an estimated £11Bn there are various mathematical implications that can be used when looking at the true cost of the games.
Modern Foreign Languages:
There are many ways that the Olympics can be related to various modern foreign languages. Whether it is from role play as a foreign visitor to the games to translating reports of the events, each language lesson can be brought to life. A truly magical idea would be to create a mini Olympics at school or college, fully organized, administered and commentated upon in a foreign language.
PE, particularly at A Level, involves gaining an understanding of the Olympic movement, its ideals and history. However, younger students can hold their own mini Olympics and key stage 2-3 students can attempt to emulate the technique, skill and tactical acumen demonstrated by the elite athletes at the games. Undoubtedly, YouTube clips of the event itself will play a big part in classroom PE lessons for years to come.
The power of the mind and need for mental control will have been evident on a daily basis at the Olympics. Students can apply the theories that they study to varying events and moments from the games- e.g. how a particular athlete has dealt with stress, the reasons for another athletes behaviour, how to control arousal, or how particularly successful athletes from the games have dealt with adulation and public scrutiny.