Topic Tuesdays: The Sochi Winter Olympics

There are so many awesome resources out there that this week is too easy. Some starting points: this NYTimes series; this NBC/NSF series of videos on the science behind Olympic sports (and the 2010 series and associated lesson plans). And movies: Cool Runnings, The Cutting Edge, The Mighty Ducks, Miracle.

1. Olympics history

How did the ancient Olympics start? Who were the athletes? What sports did they play? When and how did the modern Olympics start? Which Olympics have been cancelled, and why? Boycotted? What was the Munich massacre? What other Olympics have been impacted by terrorism?

2. A friendly competition

Pick a country to root for this Olympics. How have they done in the medal hunt in the past? How would you project them to do this year? Bet on who will do the best, adjusted for this. (Use real money to make it more exciting.) Research some of the country’s athletes competing this year, and write a profile or create a short video about one of them.

3. Playing host

How are Olympic venues chosen? Put together a proposal to host the Olympics in your town–how would you do it? (And inspiration.) Do host cities gain or lose by hosting the Olympics? Do you think it’s worth the cost?

4. How Olympic sports work

This NY Times series and the NBC videos give a jumping off point for exploring concepts in mechanics like speed, acceleration, friction, momentum, and angular momentum. How has the weather affected these Olympics? How do they ensure that there’s enough snow? How does snowmaking work?

5. Athletic training

How do you assess fitness? How do athletes from different sports train? What is VO2 max? Which sport burns the most calories? Try out an Olympic sport! What are performance enhancing drugs? How do they work? Do you think they should be banned?

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