The Olympic Games come around every two years, alternating between Summer and Winter Olympics. It’s fun and exciting to watch the athletes compete in their sport.
As an avid cycling family in Vermont, we’ve got our eyes on Lea Davison (@leadavisonbikes), and we’re cheering her on to win a medal in the mountain bike race!
The Olympic Games present a great learning opportunity if you know where to look.
Each competitive event has its drama from the personal stories of athletes who have trained for so many years and are compelling to watch to how it all plays out at the games.
The 2016 Olympics in Rio, August 5 – 21, are a perfect time to observe and learn with your children. Despite the controversy that seems to surround every Olympic games, I always enjoy watching how the nations and athletes appear to rise above it all.
The Olympic Games website provides in-depth information about everything from the television schedule to the history of the Olympic Games. From the individual athletes to the educational programs like the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP). It is a free and accessible teaching resources that have been created by the IOC. Using the context of Olympic sports and the core principles of the Olympic games, participants are encouraged to experience values-based learning and to assume the responsibilities of good citizenship.
Although it is experiencing a wave of popularity today, your child may want to learn about the history of other sports too — which has a way of sparking general historical learning as well.
Children interested in any sport can find it all right here on the Olympic website.
Do you when the Olympic games started? The first ancient Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC, according to historical records. They were dedicated to the Olympian gods and were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia. They continued for nearly 12 centuries until Emperor Theodosius decreed in 393 A.D. that all such "pagan cults" be banned.
As well as historical connections for each sport, the Olympic Games site has information about the Ancient Olympics, including the history of the games, related mythology, and historical athletes.
You can use the Olympic Games to learn more about the host country, other participating nations, and world geography. While the Olympic Games website has a roundup of the countries competing, a much better resource is Knowledge Quest’s My Country Book, available as a free download. Here are the links:
Younger children might enjoy watching the Parade of Nations and using the country flag flashcards to identify where the athletes are from.
Older children — some who are in the later elementary grades and certainly children and teens through middle school and high school — might be interested in discussing Olympics-related current events and issue-oriented topics. Here are some points of interest you might want to be prepared to talk about — or you could send your teens on a rabbit trail of internet research to find news or history on these topics:
Athletes’ issues with injuries, body image, celebrity, and training techniques & time (some Olympic athletes have been homeschooled)
- Athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs (individually, and for 2016, the Russian team has been in the news, as other countries have been in the past)
- The economic advantages and challenges of being a host country for the Olympics — and the bidding process
- Issues involving athletes’ sex, gender, and race over the years
- Other Olympics-related organizations, such as the Paralympics and Special Olympics
It’s also an excellent time to learn about Rio, Brazil, and South America. Get out the globe and the map and come up with questions that might interest your children:
- Could we drive to Rio from the United States?
- What it’s like to fail and what it’s like to win?
- What is their currency?
- How much do venues cost to see?
- What is the language and culture of Brazil?
- How is it the same or different from your country?
- How much would it cost to get tickets and travel to the Olympics in Rio as a spectator?
An event on the world stage like the Olympics gives parents the opportunity to teach their children about facts, geography, teams, sports, and competition. By watching together, having conversations, adding historical and current events into the discussion, and following up on questions with research and reading are all great ways to help children form the habit of making connections. There’s a ton of information and opportunities.
Plus, it’s a marvel to see the strength and grace of Olympic athletes in high caliber competition – and to consider the time, effort, talent, strategy, psychology, coaching, nutrition, politics, money, sacrifice, and fortune involved in getting there. The list of what it takes to get there is quite impressive!
What did you learn from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games? Add a comment below and share it.
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