Online Resources for the Winter Olympics

by Tom Klonoski

Winter Olympics poster

A vintage Winter Olympics poster | image courtesy Library of Congress

The Olympic ideal of building a better world through sports can serve as the basis for a unit that hits many social studies standards, including those dealing with multiculturalism and international cooperation.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, which begin February 7th, will be held in Sochi in the southwestern Russia. The city lies along the Black Sea and is near the Caucasus Mountains. Skiing and some other alpine events will be held in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana.

You can make a unit on the Winter Olympics more engaging by incorporating online content, perhaps by using an interactive whiteboard or tablet computers. Here are some websites that provide useful background and other content on the XXII Winter Games. Have students use them to create graphs and charts of medal winners, track Sochi temperatures, map the Torch relay, create posters about their favorite events, or compare and contrast the Ancient and Modern Olympics. As always, preview the sites, articles, and videos to make sure they are appropriate for your students.

General Sites

Elementary Students

  • Sochi MascotsShow students pictures and videos (in Russian, with English subtitles) of the Sochi mascots. Have them use one of the mascots as a character in a story or draw a picture of a mascot they would choose if the Olympics were held in their city or state.
  • Easy Snow and Ice ExperimentsUse a video of a skating or skiing event to make students curious about the science of snow and ice. Then try one or more of these simple and quick experiments about observing ice, making frost or snow, melting ice cubes, and more.
  • Measurement OlympicsAdapt this flexible program to give your students opportunities to make measurement predictions and practice using a variety of measurement tools, such as stop watches, rulers, and measuring cups. Begin by discussing how important the measurement of time and distance is in many of the Winter Olympics events. Help students understand how close many Olympic races are by listening to and discussing the Olympic Musical together.  

Middle School Students

  • Decimal Olympics GameThis free download from Teachers pay Teachers includes materials for a fun and educational review of decimals as teams of students “compete” in several events.
  • Country ReportAsk pairs of students to select a country with athletes competing in Sochi. Have them use print and digital sources to create a written or oral presentation about the country. Elements might include a summary of its history; facts about its climate, geography, and culture; a picture of its flag; a map; and a chart or table indicating the number of Winter Olympic medals its team has won over the years.
  • Sochi SportsThis lesson (one of several developed by the Australian Olympic Education Committee) focuses on the various sports in the Winter Olympics. Have groups of students choose a sport to research and create a multimedia presentation to share their findings with the class.

High School Students

  • Science of the Winter OlympicsThe National Science Foundation and NBC Learn produced these 16 short videos to explain the physics, biomechanics, physiology, and mathematical principles behind particular Olympic events.
  • The Olympics as a Model for Creating Genius?Encourage students to discuss or write about the ideas in this provocative short video produced by the PBS Idea Channel about society’s ability to develop intellectual and athletic talents. 

Want more ideas and resources for Olympics-related lessons, activities, and free printables? Check out these sites: TeachersFirst, Scholastic News Winter Olympics, TeacherVision Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Printables,  NEA Resources for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Activity Village Winter Olympics, and EducationWorld’s Gold Medal Olympics Activities.

How do you plan to discuss the Olympics with your students?

Tom Klonoski is a consultant for Green Light Professional Development. 

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