“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” These are the words of the founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin. His hope was for the Olympics and sport in general to make the world a better place. He wanted sport to be a right, not a privilege, for everyone.
Now that the Olympics are on everyone’s minds (and televisions), it’s a great time to host a mini-Olympics at your school to embody the Olympic Creed. It’s not too late to get in on the spirit of the games!
Picture this: The Olympic theme music plays as each class from Kindergarten on up enter the “stadium,” led by children carrying flags of their selected country and the rest of the class dressed in costumes appropriate for the country. You see Greece, China, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Russia, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Switzerland, India, etc. all marching in, class by class. Students assemble up front as parents and community members in the audience listen to an inspirational guest speaker who represents the Olympic spirit. A large flag with “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger: the Olympic motto) waves above the crowd, challenging students to become the best they can be. Then each class comes to center stage to present a dance from “their” country. Once the opening ceremonies are completed, let the games begin!
Games take place over the whole school day and involve all students, faculty & staff, parents, and community members. Students (prior to the big day) choose three events, from a wide variety of choices, in which to participate. When not competing in an event, they watch others and cheer them on. Events are run by parent volunteers and/or students from a nearby high school, community members, local military personnel, etc. Events can be drawn from the actual Olympics, or you can create your own. They should include a variety of types of games to allow all students to have fun and feel successful.
Below is a list of some event ideas to choose from. Each event should be run in heats by grade level, rotating through all the grades. It is simpler to stick with mostly individual sports so students move from one to the other on their own and don’t need to coordinate with a partner or team. It’s also easier to include only events which are objectively measured (i.e. for distance or time), as opposed to subjective scoring (like gymnastics).
Track and Field (aka Athletics)
- 50-Meter Dash
- 400-Meter Run (or 1X around your “track”)
- 100-Meter Hurdles
- Softball Throw for Distance
- Long Jump (from a stand and/or running)
- 4X 100 Relay
- 3 Legged Race
- Shoot for Accuracy
- Shooting Contest (HORSE or similar)
- Singles Tournament
- Singles Tournament
- Shots on Goal Competition
- Juggling (for number of touches in a row)
- Hula Hoop Contest (for duration)
- Obstacle Course (for speed)
- Flying Disc Throw (for distance)
- Beanbag Toss (for accuracy)
- Jump Rope Contest (for duration)
- Jugging 3 items (for duration)
PREPARATION IN ADVANCE:
Obviously, this is not something you throw together over a weekend. There will be much planning and preparation that goes into putting on a successful event. You may start planning now, but hold your Olympics toward the end of the school year. Here are the details on what to do to make it successful and fun for all:
- Discuss your idea with the faculty and staff and be sure to get buy-in all around. Get a small planning committee together to help share the load.
- Classroom teachers will need to be involved from the start. They may want to integrate Olympic-themed activities in their lessons (check my last blog for some of these ideas).
- Allow classes to choose which country they want to represent well in advance of the planned day. You may want to provide a list to choose from, so you can be sure you have a dance from their selected country to teach them.
- Teach each class the folk or cultural dance from their country and practice it often.
- Solicit help from parents, staff, and members of the community (high school students, seniors from a local center, military personnel, local businesses, etc.) for the set-up, running of the events, and clean up. Be sure you have enough volunteers for someone to run each event as well as one or two “handlers” per station.
- Find volunteers to be event photographers and videographers to capture moments throughout the day. Afterwards you can use this footage on your school’s website or during Open House as a slideshow or video.
- Get donations for snacks, canopies (for shade), t-shirts for volunteers, large water containers, ribbons (if you are choosing to give them), etc. This needs to be done well ahead of time.
- Secure a guest speaker to give the inspirational speech to open the games. A local athlete who has been successful or overcome barriers is typically a great choice.
- Talk to the school nurse/health clerk to discuss things they need at a First Aid Station (first aid kit, ice packs, a canopy, cot, chairs, etc.).
- Talk with nutrition services to discuss healthy foods and drinks they may be able to provide from the cafeteria.
- Create a schedule of events throughout the day. Be sure to have at least one event running for all grade levels at all times. When children choose their activities, they need to be aware of the schedule and not choose two that are being done simultaneously.
- Using your event schedule, be sure you have plenty of equipment for each event. If you’re short, ask nearby schools if you can borrow equipment for the big day.
- Draw a map of where the events will take place. Then expand it and make posters to place around the area so students can find their events.
- Write up the rules of each of the events. Make copies and place on clipboards to pass out to all volunteers.
- If your area is large, secure walkie talkies or use cell phones for communicating with folks throughout the day.
THE DAY OF:
- Set up the track (if you don’t already have one) and all of the events following the map. Place equipment at each event.
- Set up water stations, canopies, sound system for music and announcements, first aid station (with school nurse and several volunteers), seating for parents and the community for the opening ceremony, extra trash cans, the events map, and individual signs to mark each event’s venue, etc.
- Have volunteers arrive plenty early so you can talk to them about their specific event and about the Olympic Spirit. Let them know what is expected of them at their stations. If t-shirts for volunteers have been donated or purchased, give them their shirts. It is wise to choose a very bright color so they can be spotted more easily. Provide each with a full schedule of events with their station highlighted. Provide with ribbons (if being given).
- Use the loudspeaker/sound system to provide three-minute warnings of events that are starting.
- Set up the concession stand with water, healthy drinks, and snacks that have been donated or brought from the school cafeteria.
- Have plenty of recycling containers around for students to place recyclables.
- Schedule a break in the middle of the day for students to rest and eat lunch.
- It is up to you and your philosophy as to whether you want to give awards for first, second and third places (i.e. Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals). If so, you’ll need to keep track of these to give at the end, or you can have volunteers handing them out as each event finishes (much simpler).
- End the Olympics with a closing ceremony with a congratulatory speech for all athletes and a thank you to all who helped make it possible. End with each class marching one last time around the track and back to their class, taking their chairs back with them.
- Utilize volunteers to help clean up the trash and recyclables and to return all equipment, the PA system, canopies, etc.
THE FOLLOWING DAY:
- Have a meeting with the committee to discuss how things went. Look for areas to improve for next time. This could become a yearly event. No need to wait every four years to have this much fun!