Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Olympic Opportunity

We are just 8 days away from the Winter Olympics. How exciting. Human beings at the top of their game testing themselves against one another in a spirit of friendly competition. I have always enjoyed both summer and winter Olympics. Not just because I love sports, but because I love drama. One hundredth of a second can mean the difference between medaling or not. Teenagers competing for the first time; veterans possibly for the last. Stunning. Sometimes scandalous. It's all there.

Which is why it is perfect learning material for your classroom in February. Need numbers to crunch? There will be plenty: From averaging skating scores to calculating the engineering in the bobsled run or the trajectory of a ski jump. Need stuff to read? Besides the blogs and the newspaper columns and magazine articles, there are dozens of biographies and human interest stories surrounding these Olympians and those of the past. Social Studies? We have been reading about the political situation in Russia daily and are hoping for a safe winter games, but what is going on that there is this level of concern? How do different countries choose and prepare their athletes? How do all these countries come together peacefully? What happened when Nazi Germany was host? Which Olympics has the United States boycotted and why? And science?! Do you want physics? Biology? Chemistry? It's all there.

One of the complaints we hear from students all the time is that they see no connection between school and their everyday lives. Given the fact that at least watching the Olympics will be part of most students' everyday lives in the next couple of weeks, teachers have a rare opportunity for material that is both inspiring and engaging. When a student has to investigate the variations in a figure skater's heart rate during competition, comment on a blog in French written by a French Canadian athlete, calculate the best angle for a speed skater to enter a turn, or read and report on the politics surrounding the Jamaican luge! It's all there.

I challenge you to spend the next week designing at least one lesson that connects what your students have to learn because it is based on some mandated rubric or pacing guide and the winter games. Post your ideas in the comments below, on QISA's Facebook page, or tweet it to @qisatweets and we will award gold, silver, and bronze medals for the best ideas. It will all be here.

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