6 Resources to Add the Olympics to Your Lesson Plan

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics are halfway through, and students across the world are watching athletes stretch the limits of possibility. The games offer a great point of interest to engage students in classroom discussions. Here are several science resources on the Internet to help integrate the games into your lesson plans.

Six Lesson Ideas for the Olympics

The Science of Winter Olympic Sports: NBC Learn developed a series of science tutorial videos for the Sochi Olympics in Russia. Each video explains the scientific principles at play in various sports. There is even a video explaining the physics behind Shaun White’s dynamic half pipe skills.

Getting Physical: The New York Times Learning Network published an extensive learning plan for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. This is a very detailed lesson plan with great exercises that highlight the science behind the Olympics. Check it out.

The luge is just one of many winter Olympics sports that can be used to demonstrate physics to students.
Image by the Republic of Korea.

Olympic Engineering: What does it take to get a city ready for the Olympics? Teach Engineering encourages students to build their own event centers using design process. Students are encouraged to think out of the box as they meet some of the challenges facing them, from geography to resources. Recommended for elementary or early middle school students.

Lesson Plans for Purchase: Teachers Pay Teachers hosts a whole series of lesson plans geared around the games. If you filter down to science, there are still more than 50 lesson plans altogether! Prices range from $2 to $10.

Eight Great STEM Lesson Ideas: Pearson put together a series of math and science lessons related to the winter games, but these could easily be applied to a Summer Olympics, too. Science teachers will find weather-related exercises towards the end of the list.

Gold Medal Olympic Activities: Education World put together a series of Olympic exercises, also for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Some of these include turning your classroom into its own Olympic competition between students!

What would you add?

5 STEM Activities Books
You Should Read

Winter break is the best time to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book, but there’s always planning to be done for 2018. What’s the best way to combine those activities? Reading one of these great books to gather ideas for STEM activities in the coming year. Check out why these are our top five picks:

1. The Big Book of Makerspace Projects: Inspiring Makers to Experiment, Create, and Learn by Colleen and Aaron GravesGraves's "The Big Book of Makerspace Projects," a great book for inspiring STEM activities.

Two school librarians put together this spectacular collection of creative activities. Page through 12 chapters of projects using everything from popsicle sticks to smartphones to 3D Printers. Our personal favorite? Project 7, a Balloon Hovercraft! With 51 projects in all, plus a challenge project for every chapter, this book is chock full of inspiration for your classroom — or even your free time before heading back to school!

2. The Way Things Work Now by David MacaulayMacCauley's "The Way Things Work Now," a great book for inspiring STEM activities.

This volume, an updated version of the author’s previous work, The Way Things Work and The Way Things Work Now, explores today’s technology and new inventions, and explains the science behind them. What’s especially cool is that Macaulay explores the technological links between seemingly unrelated products to highlight the engineering principles that unify them! Break out this book to spark your students’ curiosity to kick off STEM activities, such as research projects.

3. The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus EnzensbergerEnzensberger's "The Number Devil," a great book for inspiring STEM activities.

With its earliest publication date back in 1997, this is an oldie but a goodie. Enzensberger’s novel teaches important math concepts with through the dreams of a young boy named Robert, accompanied by wild, fun illustrations. The Number Devil is super helpful and entertaining for kids, and you’ll enjoy the read, too! It can inspire countless great activities. Maybe have students get creative and explain a STEM concept as if it were one of Robert’s dreams!

4. The Lego Ideas Book by Daniel LipkowitzLipkowitz's "The Lego Ideas Book," a great book for inspiring STEM activities.

Ah, the most timeless of toys. There will be tons of new Lego sets coming to kids this holiday season — especially with the new Star Wars movie coming out. (Who’s excited? Nobody more than us!) Open up your kids’ creativity with new ways of using the plastic bricks they’re so familiar with. Maybe you’ve got that big box of random Legos in your classroom? This book will help you turn them into a great engineering and design activity. Sounds like a blast!

5. Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age by Kurt SquireSquire's "Video Games and Learning," a great book for inspiring STEM activities.

Check out this book for a deep dive on the extraordinary power of digital games as educational tools. Squire’s work covers highly important, innovative material that will help you understand the future of digital gaming in education, and why it has so much potential. One of the most interesting topics is Squire’s look at how competition, participation, and failure stimulate learning. The book also features case studies on specific learning games, so you can see if they might be a good fit for your class!

We hope you find some inspiration for STEM activities this holiday season. If you do, share your class’s projects with us on social media — we’d love to see them!

16 Ways to Study the Total Solar Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, we’ll see something the country has not seen in 38 years: a total solar eclipse. The day will excite students and science teachers alike. The below resources introduce students to eclipses, both lunar and solar, and prepare them for the solar eclipse.

These 16 resources compliment the Legends of Learning series of eclipse games and lesson plan that can be found in the Eclipses and Seasons Learning Objective.  Legends of Learning published a lesson plan for this Learning Objective, too, and on July 10 will offer two of its games — “Walter’s Travels” and “Bubble Eclipse” — publicly on its Alpha Games page as a public service.



Interactive Media

  • Eclipse2017.org App. Go mobile with the Eclipse2017 app. With it, students will learn about eclipses and how to find the best location to watch “totality” occur. (Available on iOS and Android)
  • Eclipses and Seasons. Encourage engagement and solidify learning objectives with Legends of Learning’s seven games about eclipses and seasons. If wishing to cross into other science subjects, look at the “The Sun, Moon, and Stars: Patterns of Apparent Motion” games, as well as “Our Solar System.”
  • JavaScript Solar Eclipse Explorer. Eclipses are historical events, and this web-based calculator provides data not only on past eclipses but also future ones.
  • NASA’s Extremely Accurate Map for August’s Total Solar Eclipse. Use this tool to combine geography and science. Students can use the tool to identify the best states for solar-eclipse watching on August 21, 2017.
  • SpaceMath. Show students how mathematics applies to real-world scientific studies with this in-depth resource from NASA. The page features numerous math activities designed to present eclipses and astronomy in a “different light.”
  • THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE. With this resource, your classroom can watch the total solar eclipse in real time. Discover’s Science Channel will cover the eclipse as it happens, then follow up with a one-hour special during primetime.
  • Total Solar Eclipse Animation. Prepare students for the eclipse launch date with PBS NOVA’s animation. For additional classroom resources, check out PBS’ toolkit, webinar, and videos.

Classroom Activities

  • Build a Sun Funnel. Spend the first few weeks of August with a collaborative science project, the Sun Funnel. While inexpensive, the funnel takes some time and expertise to build, so you may want to practice building one at home before introducing the project to the classroom. For simpler versions of the concept, consider using the Exploratorium’s instructions for building a pinhole camera from a UPS shipping container or SPACE’s shoebox concept.
  • Create an Eclipse in the Classroom. Styrofoam and cardboard possess magical properties, becoming anything from molecules and atoms to planetary systems. Follow the guide to help students create Earth-Moon-Sun systems and explore how solar and lunar eclipses work.
  • Exploring the Solar System: Solar Eclipse. This instructional tool uses an inflatable Earth to teach students three curriculum-based learning objectives. Provided by the National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network, the tool includes resources for English- and Spanish-speaking students.
  • How to Film or Photograph the 2017 Solar Eclipse Like a Pro. Unite the arts and sciences with SPACE’s instructions on how to film or photograph the solar eclipse. Warning: This resource features some advanced photography and film techniques, so you’ll either want to use it with advanced photography students or adapt the methods to your particular classroom.
  • Yardstick Eclipse Activity. This classroom activity from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) caters to the older crowd that may be less than pleased with cardboard and Styrofoam projects. You can create the activity from scratch or purchase a pre-made kit for $35.00.

Other Resources


Have you taught about lunar and solar eclipses before? What are your favorite lesson plans, activities, or resources? Share your thoughts in the comments or start a thread in the community forum.

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