Friday, 6 April 2018

Blogger's Block and the Winter Olympics

Blogger's Note:
I know this post is a little late. Yes, the Olympics were over more than a month ago. I've got a few excuses; like things got busy, I was away for March Break, I was starting my Podcast. Blah ditty, Blah ditty, blah, blah, blah.  If I'm being honest...and what's the point of blogging if you aren't going to be honest with yourself...I had a serious case of Blogger's Block.

Yep, the dreaded ole' 2B.

I tried starting this post, and about four others on various topics, on several occasions.  All crap.  Just a bunch of fragmented words and loosey goosey ideas floating around like a bucket of minnows.

But, I'm back.

I think.

Maybe let me know what you think in the comments, after you've read this.  I thank you in advance for your patience.  Without further's the real post.

Winter Olympics Fever

This February and into March, our classroom heated up with Olympics Fever.  We cheered our favorites, watched some of the death defying events, shared the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat (most during hockey games).  We also did a lot more than that, as the Olympics became a cross-curricular event of the educational kind.

We were lucky to have one of our Viking Teachers actually at the Olympics.  Math teacher, Mr. Higgs, is the coach of the USA Co-ed Curling Team.  He was sending us photos and updates from the games.  Which, really...was totally cool.  And so great of him to take the time to do.

Before the Opening Ceremonies, we discussed as a class how the Olympics could be a part of our learning over the next few weeks.  The students created a collaborative slide show of our Canadian Medal Winners.  They worked on projects about Canadian athletes.  Each day they updated our Google My Maps of the hometowns of Canadian Medal winners.  They researched the various sports that are a part of the Winter Olympics and what is involved in training for them.  You can see some of their finished work on our classroom website.

We had some great morning discussions.  Each day we updated the Medal Standings and talked not just about how Canada was doing, but looked at them through a math lens.  One day near the end of the Olympics a Student brought up the idea of looking at how the results would have been different if the medals of the athletes from Russia had been included.  That was a great little math exercise.  But it got really interesting when it lead into the topic of cheating - not just at the Olympics, but in general.  They talked about how cheating is cheating if it's in Sports or anything else in life.  Some of them thought cheating at a card game was okay, but only if there was no money involved.  One of them pointed out that Olympic Athletes are not paid for being at the Olympics, so did that make cheating there ok?  It was a really great discussion with lots of give and take.

There were some great mini science and physical education/health lessons looking at the different events.  The basic physics that was involved in a ski jump or a triple axel became fascinating.  We didn't always understand the properties behind them, but we did gain a bigger appreciation for what it took to do these things and compete at an International level.  We also talked about why certain athletes might be better suited to certain sports.  The day after Tessa and Scott competed, we talked about the difference in ice dancing and pairs skating - and why in Pairs Skating, the male partner is usually very tall and his partner very tiny, so that they are able to pick the lady up and propel her across the ice in a throw or lift.  But they noticed that in Ice Dancing, the pair was close in height because it looks nice and they don't do the throws that the Pairs do.

They were able to see how all the things we've been learning about Growth Mindset would be really important for athletes and the idea of working towards a personal best being as important for athletes as winning a medal.  I asked them if they thought that this same concept would apply to them in Special Olympics or in their lives in general.  Most of them said they thought it did.  I'll admit to getting a little more heavily involved in pushing this conversation, and I really hope they are able to transfer this to their own ideas about growth mindset and continuous learning and improvement.

It really was just over a month of great learning and inquiry.  They were motivated.  They were excited about coming in each day and sharing what they had watched the night before.  Some of them were working on their projects...AT HOME!  Not because it was homework.  It wasn't.  Because they were just that into it.

There was so much more that we could have done, and maybe we might do the next time the Olympics roll around.  I would have loved to include the ParaOlympics in the Unit - but they were held during March Break, so the timing was off.  The Canadian Olympic School Program site had great activities that tied more directly with Physical Education - we didn't have any gym time this semester,  but I think they would be great to do if we did.  I might have been able to bring in some art and music by tying into the Opening and Closing ceremonies, and looking at the team logos and uniforms.  There is just so much we could do - but at some point, you need to move on to other things, or we would still be doing the Olympics in June.

We were sad to see the Winter Olympics end.  But - 2022 will be here before we know it.  Time is like that.  I'd be interested to hear if others used the Olympics as a thematic approach to curriculum?  What types of things did you do in your classrooms?

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