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February 19, 2010

Learning science with the Olympic Winter Games

Filed under: Family Activities,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 12:00 pm

One of the best ways to instill  a love of learning in kids is to find the teaching moments in everyday life, not just in school.  Well why not try the Olympics?


Recently we caught wind of an amazing partnership between NBC Learn and the National Science Foundation to create a project called Science of the Olympic Winter Games. Through the partnership, NBC Learn and the NSF have produced 15 short, engaging videos where Olympic athletes – many of whom are starring in the 2010 Winter Games – explain the mechanics behind their sport.

figureskating_thumbIn one video, figure skater Rachel Flatt practices her routines in front of a phantom camera that captures her motion at rates of up to 1500 frames per second.  Sports science professor Deborah King then breaks down each of Rachel’s moves – from her quadruple toe loops to her basic spins – explaining concepts like angular momentum, vertical velocity, and other laws of motion.  Deborah even uses the spinning chair in her office to demonstrate the concepts herself!

slapshot_physics_thumbThe dynamic videos, which you can watch at NBC Learn, use the thrill and competition of the Winter Olympics to teach physical concepts like the air lift in ski jumps, the forces involved in a hockey slapshot, and the careful design behind ice skates, snowboards, safety gear, and even the suits athletes wear.

Pair these videos with their accompanying lesson plans at Lessonopoly.org, and you’ve got a slew of amazing science lessons in your back pocket.  Elizabeth Rhodes, the developer of the curriculum, said her hope was that kids would watch the Olympics and realize,

Science isn’t something that’s in a book; it’s out there on the ice, it’s there with the skiers, it’s in the hockey and curling.”

When the Olympics are over, the learning doesn’t have to stop there.  Thousands more math and science lessons can be found at Lessonopoly.org, an ambitious project supported by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation that lets teachers share their materials and make them freely available online.

Read more about this partnership in the San Jose Mercury News article, “Students learn the science of Olympics.”

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for blogging about this project! We hope to create more lesson plans that capitalize on teachable moments like the Olympics in the future! Any suggestions for future topics are welcome.

    Comment by Amy Wong — March 1, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

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