Classroom Winter Olympics - The Games Begin! February 02 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games begin in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on February 12th. Athletes compete in a variety of winter sports, and most have trained their whole lives for the chance to compete at these Winter Games.

Although I'd like to bring in some of these winter sports into my classroom for my kids to experience, that's just not possible. But I have found a few different classroom activities that capture the fun and excitement of the Olympic Games...without all of the snow.

The Skills Focus - Measurement!

These Classroom Olympics focus on estimation and measurement. The first objective is to help students use either standard or metric measurement, which will depend on the age level of your students and the benchmarks that your state requires. Next, I want students to be able to measure accurately using appropriate tools of measurement.

Along with that, I want to give students real-life comparisons to go along with these measurement tools; for example, an inch is about as long as the distance between your first and second knuckle on your pointer finger. And last, I think students should be able to estimate accurately, which is more challenging than it sounds.   

Preparing For The Games

My Classroom Olympic Games are a celebration of a unit of study about measurement. I like to remind my kids that just as athletes prepare to compete in the Olympic Games, we must also get ready. Before we get to play the Olympic Games, we know the terms, how to use measurement tools, and how to behave appropriately while following the rules of the Games.

Also, I really want kids to practice estimation before the Games, and this practice is built into the preparation - the lessons - that we cover before the Games. The medals are awarded not based on "the most," but rather "the closest" - the difference between the estimation and the actual measurement must be small. The smaller the difference, the higher the prize.

Let The Games Begin!

The Classroom Olympic activities include a javelin event using straws, the shotput using cotton balls, the discus using paper plates, a hand-span event that focuses on area in square units, and the relay which focuses on minutes and seconds.

I suggest setting up the materials in centers, and there needs to be plenty of room. In our school, we have an all-purpose room that's smaller than the gym but big enough to handle a busy class of students. Materials you'll need for these events include tape for marking where students should stand, rulers in standard or metric measurement (depending on which one you're focusing on), straws, paper plates, cotton balls, graph paper, pencils, stopwatches, plastic spoons and marshmallows.

Along with these materials, here is an Olympic Events packet for your students to use. The first page contains the directions for each event, and I like to go through these with the students before they begin. The second page is where they keep track of their estimations and measurements, including where they figure out the difference for each event and choose their best event.

The closest estimation to measurement gets the gold medal, and this can be done by event or overall. Don't forget to have a closing ceremony where students are awarded their gold, silver and bronze medals. This will really get them in the Olympic spirit!