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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sochi Lessons for Every Classroom

Shoveling again!  Between our record breaking cold, 7 snow days and the winter Olympics approaching, tying your lessons to snow seems like a no-brainer, no matter where you are!

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lessons of course are an excellent fit, but why not include art (STEAM) and Reading (STREAM) and Social Studies (STREAMS)…there are lots of resources and opportunities to take advantage of this global event in your classroom.

If you have snow in your backyard, there are lots of questions you can explore:  Why does it form crystals (flakes) sometimes and other times it is just ice?  How does salt help snow to melt?  Are there environmental consequences of salting the roads?  Can you design a better snow shovel?  Why does some snow make better snow balls than others?  How do ski areas make snow?  

If you don’t have snow in your backyard (hard for me to believe!), there is plenty of snow science going on in Sochi.  I recently learned from an NBC (Orlando) reporter, Stewart Moore, on his way to cover the Olympics, that Sochi was a “tropical resort” in Russia, with weather comparable to Atlanta (except for the nearby mountains!). Snow was actually saved from last year under blankets just in case they need it!  Imagine all of the logistics involved in pulling off an event like this (science, technology, engineering, math, anyone?)!

There are lots of great resources to get students engaged in relevant learning in your content area this month!

Science:    Check out these great videos on the Science and Engineering of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games including the “Science of Ice” “Science of Snow” and “Building Faster and Better Bobsleds” complete with in-depth lesson plans!  You can find more videos on the Science of the Olympic Games 2010 related to individual sports and gear.  Just for fun, check out this fascinating sound interactive which illustrates in sound the fractions of a second separating finishers in events at the Olympics.  This was found amongst the gems offered in TeachersFirst’s Resources for the Sochi Olympics.

Technology:  Yesterday, I witnessed a great Digital Day Winter Olympic Challenge going on between students in Indiana and Lousiana.  Hosted by William Krakower in NJ, students met in a Google Hangout and answered challenge questions based on the Olympics.  The questions included “How many miles from your school to Sochi?  How many kilometers? What is the time difference between your school and Sochi?” These students were totally engaged and motivated by the hot (cold?) topic of the Winter Olympics and the social capital built in.  You can easily replicate this with your own set of questions, set up game show style within your classroom, with a class across the hall, a class across town, or a class across the globe.  Kudos to those teachers who brought this cutting-edge activity to their students despite some technical difficulties and weather cancellations.

Reading: has some great articles that feature different perspectives, ask great questions and cover ethical issues that make for great reading and persuasive writing.  Some examples include “Sports Doctors:  Conflict of Interest?” or “Too Much Training?”  Find the articles by searching for Olympics or Science Meets Sports.  Discover more ideas for Olympic-related reading and writing activities at ReadWriteThink.

Engineering:  There are lots of opportunities for engineering research from the Olympic venue to the athlete’s gear.  Check out this simple student challenge from We are Teachers which has students build their own bobsled out of Popsicle sticks.  Or use the video on Engineering Faster and Safer Bobsleds and the accompanying guide for STEAM activities related to designing the bobsled.

Math:  Have you seen Yummy Math?  This site provides “mathematics relevant to our world today.” Their most recent post was on the lighting of the Olympic Torch and one on how Olympic ski jumping is scored, both great math lessons with authentic and timely connections.    Check out the Mathletes video and lesson for another activity on scoring in the Olympic Games.   There are some very simple ideas on what you can do with results (including fake result pages) that you can use for simple math activities involving reading and building tables. 

Social Studies:  Delve into the history of the Olympics, geography of Sochi or research an athlete to discover the culture and geography of their country.   There are lots of links for the History of the Games, Olympic Games and Politics, and Ancient Olympic Games on the TeacherVision site.

Looking for more STEM Activities?
Matt Davis provides some quality links and ideas incorporating STEM into Olympics in the student engagement blog on Edutopia.  Highlights include mapping the Olympic Torch Relay, math activities from Scholastic and great hands on activities from Science Buddies.

Looking for Debate topics?  Who should host the 2022 Winter Olympics? 

The Olympic Games are an excellent opportunity to connect the interdisciplinary dots in an engaging way!  How will you take advantage?

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