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Global Education

Three Themes to Teach During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The historic 2020 Tokyo Olympics are currently underway! For international educators committed to uniting our world through global learning, the Olympic Games serve as an excellent opportunity to teach your students about global competencies that will lead to their success as future global leaders. Since the Summer Olympics only happen once every four years, it is critical that we take the opportunity to connect the Games to student learning! Here are three themes you can use as a framework to explore the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with your students.

Teach Resilience

As a global community, we have survived the last 16 months of the pandemic through perseverance and resilience. Remind your future global leaders that the pandemic has been a lesson in adapting to new situations and finding ways to pivot and change course when forced to contend with the unknown. Our collective ability to be flexible and resilient in the face of hardship has made us stronger. Use the stories of the athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a frame to teach about resilience to your students. Many of the athletes were unable to train as they usually would have due to lockdown restrictions, yet they are traveling to the Olympic Games now, ready to shatter world records and win Olympic medals. How do these stories inspire your students to put their best selves forward? What inspiration can each of us take from the Olympic Games and bring to our day-to-day lives?

Teach Curiosity

With 46 different sports and 339 events to be played during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, your students will certainly be exposed to sports they are unfamiliar with! Encourage them to be curious and keep an open mind while learning about sports and the sports cultures that are new to them during this global event. Use this official site as a reference for students to learn more about individual events and their history. You may also choose to ask your students questions that inspire their curiosity and deepen their understanding of the greater and underlying contexts in which the Olympic Games are held. Ask questions like, “What happens to the Olympic stadiums and infrastructure once the Games are over?” or “What are some symbols you can identify during the Games that reflect the country hosting the Olympics?” to probe beyond surface-level appreciation of the Olympics as a major sporting event.

Teach Intercultural Knowledge

The Olympics are a unifying global event that celebrates the accomplishments of people and cultures from around the world. The opening ceremony provides a glimpse of the many countries and athletes that comprise the Games. Have open conversations with students about the factors at play as they consider the size of each country’s team. Discuss the breadth of different events to compete in and have students explore the history of certain sports or national teams that are competing. As students deepen their understanding of the Olympic Games, they will also be deepening their intercultural knowledge and will better understand the ways in which people around the world are shaped by various circumstances and cultural influences.

Hungry for more ways to teach students about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? Check out this educational toolkit from the Olympic Museum for fact sheets and activities you can complete with students from ages 6–15.

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