Olympic Lesson Plans: Learning about the Olympic Games Through "Potato Olympics"

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Potato What?

If you have never heard of Potato Olympics, then you are in for a real treat! Imagine all of the excitement of the Olympic games right there in your classroom. You’ll have athletes from around the world with interesting stories of their homeland, their likes, dislikes, family pets and favorite pastimes. Your class will participate in amazing Olympic games like long distance racing, golf, diving, bowling, javelin throw and much more. And, best of all, your students will be happily writing their papers, using researching skills and perfecting their math abilities all while thinking you’re the best teacher in the school.

The Basic Idea of Potato Olympics

The purpose of Potato Olympics is to replicate the concept of the Olympic games for students and use the experience as a comprehensive teaching opportunity. Each student receives their own Potato Olympian and serves as their coach throughout the games. Each Olympian is given a name, a country and a biography written by their respective student coach. The games for the Potato Olympics are determined by you and the students and any structures necessary for the games are built by the class. Opening and closing ceremonies should be held to provide the students an opportunity to present and report on their Olympian. This could be done in miniature in the classroom, or with large banners on an outdoor track. Unlike in the real Olympics, Potato Olympians participate in all events. The extent to which you replicate the Olympics is up to your imagination as the teacher. For instance, a plan might need to be in place for Olympic injuries. A three-tiered stand might be nice for the Olympic medals and, if you are conducting your Potato Olympics in conjunction with the international Olympics, then a classroom opportunity to watch an Olympic event might be an interesting and educational tie-in for the students.

Supplies and Planning Required for Potato Olympics

The first two things you will need for Potato Olympics are potatoes and a sense of humor. You can either choose to purchase a bag of potatoes, or you can have each child bring in their own potato. If they bring in a own potato, there is a much greater chance of variety among the Olympians, as different children will choose different types of potatoes. You might suggest that round potatoes roll somewhat better than long potatoes, or you might just let the children learn this on their own. Like all of us, different shaped potatoes have different strengths and weaknesses and the class will learn this scientific truth as they attempt different maneuvers with their potatoes.

Resource materials on different countries should be made available for students to learn about their Olympians’ personal history and background. This might be done in the classroom, in the library or as a homework project. A few weeks should be given for students to properly research their Olympians’ countries and write grade-level appropriate reports on their Olympians. Potato Olympics can be done on a variety of grade levels and assignments should be determined accordingly.

Depending on the Olympic games you or your class choose, additional materials, such as ply wood for ramps, plastic tubs for diving, or straws for javelin throws, might be necessary.

The more fun you have with the Potato Olympics the more fun your class will have. The learning possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Potential Potato Events

Here are some possible events for your Potato Olympics, but be creative and the options are virtually limitless!

Diving - Olympians are dropped by their coaches into a bucket of water and water displacement is measured.

Running - Olympians are rolled for distance through a marked area.

Luge -- Olympians are rolled through a luge track made of plywood or tubing.

Bobsled - Olympians are grouped into teams and travel in wooden bobsleds down a plywood ramp.

Bowling – Coaches roll their Olympians to knock over plastic bottles.

Golf – A miniature golf course is set up in the class room and coaches put their Olympians through the course.

Shot Put - This can be done by coaches or Olympians depending on the interests of the teacher and coaches. If the Olympians are to fly through the air, it is best if this is done through an elaborate sling shot design and obviously, outside. If the coaches participate in this event, cotton balls can be used for throwing and distance is measured.

Javelin Throw -- Coaches throw plastic straws on behalf of their Olympians and measure distance.

Potato Olympics on YouTube

See Potato Olympics in action, here.