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Going For Gold

NMSI explores ways to turn the summer Olympics into teachable moments.
We often watch the Olympics for fun, but savvy teachers and parents turn the games into valuable teaching moments. Real-world examples within the Olympics can be used to help kids understand STEM topics, and applied to everyday situations to boost understanding. Events can even be recreated and turned into teachable moments with homemade experiments. Ready to get started? Read on!
On your mark… get set… go: Graphs and statistics in real life
How much time does it take to become an Olympic athlete? We often hear about how many hours a day an athlete must practice to become proficient at their sport.
•Encourage kids to keep track of their time spent on different activities over several days.
•At the end of a week, encourage them to make graphs and find summary statistics of their time, the idea being that it takes a significant amount of time to become exceptional at something.
•Do they have time to become an Olympic athlete? An AP student?
•Ask the question: How much time do they think it would take to become really good at something?
Stick the landing: Using gymnastics to understand friction
Before a routine, gymnasts apply chalk to their hands, feet and legs, which helps absorb moisture and reduce friction when they are competing on different types of apparatus.
•Use flour, cornstarch, baby powder and chalk to set up a homemade experiment.
•Kids can test which material is the most absorbent by using it on their hands while grabbing different items and testing their grip.
•Draw conclusions from the tests and have kids make an educated decision as to which material is best for reducing friction and would be an ideal tool for an Olympic gymnast.
For more ideas on how to turn the Olympics into an educational opportunity, visit ScienceNetLinks, where you’ll find a plethora of lessons for all ages with STEM themes ranging from physics to health and medicine.
NMSI wishes the best of luck to all of our athletes representing Team USA. Good luck in the Rio Olympics!