The 2018 Winter Olympics was an awesome experience for our family, and much to our dismay, it has come to an end.
Our family has been zealously watching a lot of the sports and cheering wildly together. At first my kids had no idea about the Olympics but after sensing the excitement of the Opening Ceremony with all its pizzazz, music, dance, lights, drones, mascots, athletes, they were hooked. We were too, and I had to see this weird sport called curling. It looks strange at first with all that brooming movement, but we’ve slowly warmed up to its inherent beauty.
I took my kids’ excitement as the perfect opportunity to revolve our school lessons around the Olympics this month.
History lesson: talking about how the Olympics started in ancient Greece thousands of years ago. We covered other important historical facts: only men could participate in the Olympics, they competed in the nude (this produced a lot of giggles), instead of a medal, the winner received a laurel crown, war ceased during these games, the running of the Olympic torch, and the symbolism of the Olympic rings.
Chris and I were eagerly waiting to see the athletes enter the stadium from both South and North Korea during the Opening Ceremony. Elliot was curious to know why there were two Koreas, so the teacher in me thought this was a great opportunity to talk about freedom, differences between a president and a dictator, privations faced by the common North Korean people, and individual choice. It was not well received. I was asked by Elliot to discontinue the discussion.
Social Studies: discussing how the Olympics are hosted by different countries each time and that this year’s Olympics is held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I emphasized the excitement of the games being hosted by Korea in part thinking this would develop cultural pride as Koreans; plan didn’t go as intended. They looked perplexed and said they only love Team U.S.A. (I understand patience is needed on my part. While growing up, I straddled 2 cultures and felt so confused. I began to finally accept myself as Korean-American in my 30s. Living up to the name of late bloomer, I guess.)
The mascots were very popular and much loved in our home! This was a great way to tell them Korean folklore stories that Chris and I remember from our childhood (choppy at best). We looked up the symbolism of the white tiger and the IOC NEWS provided an easy explanation of it: “The white tiger has long been considered Korea’s guardian animal…Soohorang not only has a challenging spirit and passion, but is also a trustworthy friend who protects the athletes, spectators, and all the participants of the Olympic games.” https://www.olympic.org/pyeongchang-2018-mascot
Learning about the flags and locating the participating countries on the world map were popular activities too. They felt proud to correctly identify or guess correctly the flags shown on the TV screen. We also made a trip to the bookstore to get a reference book about flags – they felt very grown up to have the salesperson walk us around several sections to find the perfect book for them.
Science: making a cardboard ramp for marble races and a cardboard snowboard ramp attached to plastic marble run.
We tested the run with marbles of different weight, experimented with various obstacle to determine which obstacles made the ramp more challenging or accelerated the speed of marbles. Throughout the building and testing, necessary adjustments and changes were made.
Math: checking out the judges’ scores and seeing which numbers are higher or lower, learning about scoring for curling (I’m still puzzled and poor Chris was bombarded with scoring questions from us), making charts and graphs of how many different types and numbers of dinosaurs and marbles they have, which involved lots of counting, sorting, classifying. The latter activity didn’t correlate with the Olympics, but it was part of the first-grade math workbook activities.
Team Spirit: cheering for Team U.S.A. and Korea, familiarizing ourselves with the various winter sports. We also talked about what it means to be a good team player, the discipline it takes to become an Olympic athlete, being happy for the winners, learning how to lose gracefully, withstanding pressure to succeed and excel, and doing your best.
Language Arts: learning how to read the Monopoly Here & Now cards while watching the Olympics, writing out and alphabetizing the names of different sports, and working on related worksheets.
Overall, learning about the Olympics in real time was very entertaining, relevant, and educational. Since what we covered was reinforced quickly, it was easy to get excited and feel productive. When doing an activity or a chore, I would say “go for the gold” and begin talking like a commentator to explain what the athletes were doing. The determined looks on their faces and posture poised to leap into action meant serious business. For example, who could walk and carry a full glass of water without spilling any along the way?
For a few days our dining room was transformed into a track for speed sock skaters and relay running of the Olympic torch. The torch was improvised by wrapping a rubber band around a small plastic flashlight to the tip of a plastic feeding syringe.
(Ellis’ medical condition has brought with it an influx of various medical supplies from her hospital stays into our home. Too much to use and too wasteful to just toss. So we’ve morphed them into props for playing, become toys or art supplies, used to inject oil into the car, or wherever else they can be used).
Overall, I can confidently say that our learning about the 2018 Winter Olympics has exceeded my expectations! We made special family memories and learned interesting facts and historical story about the Olympics that made it more meaningful to us.
One thing that does make me sad is that the kids will be much older at the 2022 Winter Olympics. They probably won’t be as silly, chattering endlessly about the teams till our ears hurt, or insist on cuddling us while watching the games. Gosh, they grow up so fast that each passing day is both a blessing, to know that I made it through the day, and a nostalgic longing for the times that has already passed.