Gear Up for the Summer Olympics
A short history of the Olympic Games, as well as resources to help you teach about their origins, sports, politics, and more.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
On August 5, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio will kick off with the Opening Ceremony — marked by the “Parade of Nations,” the hoisting of the Olympic flag, and the renowned torch lighting among other traditional and innovative celebrations. More than 200 nations and thousands of athletes participate in the Olympic Games, which are held biennally, alternating between the summer and winter games.
The most famous of all the classical games of ancient Greece, the ancient Olympic Games, which originated more than 3,000 years ago, were held every four years as part of a religious festival honoring Zeus, the king of the Gods. The games were most likely both an outgrowth of the values of Greek society — ancient Greeks believed that excellence in physical fitness honored Zeus — and a way to encourage good relations between Greek cities.
The Olympic Games were revived in the late 19th century, and the modern Games also aim to help build a better world through sport that is practiced in a spirit of peace, excellence, friendship, and respect. The connections between today’s games and the ancient games in Greece don’t stop there: many of the sporting events of today’s games program, including footraces and long jumps, as well as javelin and discus throws, were also a part of the ancient games.
The 2012 summer Olympics take place from August 5 through August 21.
Learn more about the Olympic Games with this video on the history of the games as well as the following articles, lesson plans, activities, and web resources.
Learn about the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece in this article from Grolier Online's New Book of Knowledge.
A Grolier Online’s New Book of Knowledge article about the revival of the Olympic Games in modern times
The IOC tries to maintain the Olympic ideals and hold Games that are free of political conflict. However, politics have occasionally intruded into the Games. Learn how in this article from Grolier Online’s New Book of Knowledge.
Find out about the Ancient Greek origin of gymnastics, and learn additional details about modern competitions and scoring.
Introduce your students to the fascinating world of Ancient Greece by studying the Olympic Games, then and now.
This table shows the number of medals won by different countries at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. Students use the table to answer the math questions.
Have your students compete for Olympic medals in a fun and energetic way. Backwards twenty-five yard dash, jump rope competition, softball throw, and other activities for you to stage a playground Olympics.
Promote critical thinking while learning about the Olympic Games with this worksheet in which students identify 15 international sports symbols used to identify various sports during the Olympics.
The line graph shows the number of countries that participated in the Summer Olympic Games from 1968 through 2000. Students use the graph to answer the questions.
The ancient Greeks crowned Olympic champions with wreaths of laurel. Your students will adore wearing them too. Cut the laurel branches from green construction paper and then staple them to a paper headband to form a wreath.
Award students who participated in the school's or class' Olympic Games with a medal or certificate.
Resources From Around the Web
A Scholastic book list that includes some of our favorites, from The Encyclopedia of Summer Olympics to A Picture Book of Jesse Owens, to get your students in tip-top shape for the Summer Olympics
For more information, see The Modern Olympic Games (PDF) from Olympic.org, the official site of the Olympic movement. It looks at the events in both the summer and winter games, life in the Olympic Village, medals, and more.