Every four years something magical happens—billions of people around the world find inspiration in the Olympic Games. From powerhouse countries like the United States and China to small countries like Vanuatu and Angola, children are tuning in and watching their homeland athletes go up against the best in the world.
What better time to get your students into fitness and health? They’re already watching at home with their families and friends, talking about the performances they’ve seen and emulating their favorite athletes.
Whether you’re in charge of a summer camp this season or you’re planning your physical education curriculum for the coming fall, there are no shortage of games, activities, and pure Olympic inspiration to get your students active.
Here are some ways to incorporate the Games into your lesson plans, split up by age group:
Grades K through 5
Your youngsters might not understand the honor that accompanies U.S. athletes to the Olympics every four years, but they’ll understand something close: red, white, and blue; and bronze, silver and gold.
Create mock Olympic races and competitions with the young ones. This is a great time to encourage teamwork and friendly competition. Put the emphasis on trying your best, and if they don’t win or do as well as they’d hoped, at least they made it to the Third Grade Olympics!
You could stage mock Olympic Trials, and that way everyone gets to play for the U.S.
Use real Games disciplines to create your mock trials: relay races, dance competitions, and even accuracy competitions (like throwing a ball at a target). SPARK lesson plans come with a huge variety of ideas that are easily adaptable to your own personal Olympic Trials.
Grades 6 through 8
With this age group, you’ll be able to conduct more complex games. This age group will also have an easier time understanding the idea of representing their country and what it means to compete on the world’s stage.
Show videos of popular athletes the students already know to help engage them in your mock Games. If you have pool access, why not channel Michael Phelps and Dana Vollmer? If you’re taking them outside to the track (or suitable, safe running area), use the accomplishments of Lolo Jones and Tyson Gay to help show how a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and a lot of determination can help your students succeed.
As always, instill the ideals of teamwork, but also that it’s OK to lose. Show how Olympic athletes always shake hands after a meet, and congratulate each other for their successes.
Grades 9 through 12
With this age group, your possibilities are almost endless. Freestyle swimming, basketball, gymnastics, archery, track and field, badminton, and even table tennis are all real Olympic sports. As long as you have the equipment, you’ll be able to manage these sports on a class-wide scale.
It may be more difficult to play pretend with high schoolers, so think about other ways to get your older students engaged. For example, you can offer bonus points or extra credit using an improvement metric: as long as the student has improved in a certain event from the beginning to the end of your Olympic Trials, that student earns something extra.
If your school allows it, and you’re feeling particularly ambitious, why not include the entire school in your Olympic Trials? Bringing many students together for a common cause is a fantastic way to emulate how the Games operate, and it could lead to some students teaming up with other students they would otherwise not interact with.
Plus, you can create a series of activities that gets your students talking about fitness and it’s many aspects, including making nutritious food choices, staying healthy by exercising, and staying positive.
At the end of your mock Olympic Games closing ceremony, you may not be able to hand out gold, silver, and bronze medals to every one of your students, but you’ll give them something better: a golden outlook on their own fitness.
And a gold medal in healthy living is something they can cherish for a lifetime.