The Olympics as we know them today are very different from the original games that began in Greece. This week we will learn about the history of the games. But since the Winter Olympics began on February 4, 2022, make connections with your child to what is happening in Beijing this week. An optional reading source you could implement into your weekly reading can be the Honest History Issue 8 – The Spirit of the Games. Download our skills and books tracker for the week here.
What you need:
Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):
- The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History by Jane Bingham (you will also use their online resources)
- Usborne Greeks by Susan Peach and Anne Millard (this book is only available used on Amazon or from other second-hand book stores, or you can read it online here on OpenLibrary)
Optional additional reading:
- Honest History — Issue 8: The Spirit of the Games (use code LEARNANDLIVE15 for 15% off your purchase!)
Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):
Note: We break down our supply list by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.
Paper mache Greek urn craft:
- a balloon
- an empty oatmeal cylinder
- duct tape
- paper mache paste (flour, water, sugar)
- scrap cardboard
- Xacto knife or scissors
- paint brush
Simplified Greek urn craft:
- construction paper
- black permanent marker
- urn template (optional)
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
Build a chariot craft:
- cereal box (or something similar for the body of the chariot)
- thicker scrap cardboard (for the tongue of the chariot)
- two round lids (like the lid from two juice bottles)
- printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- brown cardstock
- toilet paper roll
- mini popsicle sticks and/or popsicle sticks
- hot glue gun + glue
- Xacto knife
- foil (optional for decorating wheels)
- brown paper bag (optional to cover body of chariot)
- straws or wooden skewers for the axle
Olympic Greek wreath craft:
Simplified Greek wreath craft:
Greek theater mask:
Upgraded Greek theater mask:
- 600-grain sandpaper
Sound waves experiment:
- two different size spoons (try using a teaspoon and a serving spoon)
- about 4 feet of string or yarn (this will depend on how tall you are)
(+) Upgrade sound wave activity:
Herb infused olive oil:
Olive oil lava lamp:
- 16 oz plastic soda bottle with cap
- olive oil
- food coloring
- Alka-Seltzer tablet
- flash light (optional)
What to do:
We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!
Welcome to the Olympic Games! Of course, the original games didn’t look quite like what your child might be used to today. Read the top part of page 157 in Usborne World History Encyclopedia to start our lessons.
Note to parents: As you start learning about the Olympics and see other Greek forms of art, the topic of nudity in art might come up. Here are some talking points if you’re not sure how to have the conversation.
Activity 1: Read + Discover the history of the Olympic games. Begin by reading Usborne Greeks pages 58 and 59, and then read this article on BBC Bitesize. (The videos will only work for our UK members.)
There were many games in the original Olympics, including equestrian events, combat sports like wrestling and boxing, running, jumping, and pentathlon. One way we learn about these games is by looking at ancient urns that depicted them. Here’s one that shows running and one for pentathlon. You can see a variety of other urns displayed here.
Activity 2: Now let’s make our own urn with this craft tutorial. Not crafty? You can also try this simpler version. (You can use our urn template, if needed.)
Read + Discover. For our next lesson, we’re off to the races! Learn about one of the original Olympic sports here—chariot races!
Activity 1: Where did the chariot races take place? The hippodrome! Let’s learn about this ancient stadium by reading about it here. See what it looked like here, and click here to see original Greek hippodrome plans and ruins.
Activity 2: Want a challenge? Try building your own hippodrome on Minecraft.
Activity 3: Next, build your own chariot.
For day three of this week, get ready to enter the winners circle! What did the winners of the Olympic games get? Valuable prizes could be won in athletic contests all over the Greek world, but victory at Olympia brought the greatest prestige. Winning contestants were allowed to put up statues of themselves inside the sanctuary of Zeus to commemorate their victory; many bases for these statues survive down to our day. Statues of athletes and statesmen were a prominent feature of Greek cities and sanctuaries. If the athlete won three times, they could set up specially commissioned portrait statues, which could cost up to ten times the average yearly wage. Winners at Olympia also received crowns of wild olive. (source) Other prizes included money and jars of olive oil!
Activity 1: Create your own wreath with one of these two crafts: This one or this simpler version.
Activity 2: Read this article on Penn Museum’s website debunking modern myths about the Olympic games.
Activity 3: Let’s compare the Olympics then and now. Read this article to review what we’ve learned this week but also to make connections with today’s Olympics. (The Winter Olympics began Feb 4, 2022!)
Want to learn more about Greek theater and drama? Let’s start the show! Read the bottom part of page 157 in Usborne World History Encyclopedia.
Activity 1: Read + Discover. Read the Usborne Greeks pages 56 and 57 for more information on the Plays and Players.
Activity 2: Make your own Greek theater masks.
(+) Or you can make this upgraded version of a Greek theater mask.
Activity 3: Read + Discover. Have you ever heard of an amphitheater? Read this article to learn more about this ancient theater. This link has some great pictures to help see how the sound bounces from the stage to the seats. What is the science behind the amphitheater?
“Acoustics is a science that has to do with measuring the transmission of sound waves. A theater or other building with good acoustics allows sound to travel naturally for long distances, enabling people to hear music, a play, or something else even if they are sitting far away from the stage. Perhaps the best way to understand acoustics in action is to consider the theaters of ancient Greece. Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as electronic sound amplification, so builders had to figure out a way to build theater structures that would allow the sound from a performance to extend all the way to the back of the Greek amphitheaters where it was conducted. They did this by employing stepped seating arrangements like those that are still used today for stadium seating at movie theaters and other venues. The first row of seats was on the same level as the stage, the second row a little higher, the third row a little higher than the second row, and so on, all the way to the back of the theater.” (source)
Activity 4: Let’s experiment with sound waves.
(+) This upgraded sound waves experiment video will leave quite an impression. Next, build your own “sound wave” with tape and straws.
For our food history lesson this week, we’ll look into the story of the olive.
Activity 1: Read about the long and lovely history of the olive tree here. Want to add more olive oil into your life? Here are some fun suggestions.
Activity 2: Make herb infused olive oil at home with this simple recipe.
Activity 3: Let’s get a little funky with this olive oil lava lamp. This is a great experiment to learn about density. Why do some things sink or float in water? Watch this video. But what about oil and water? Why don’t they mix? Watch this video to learn the reason.
Activity 4: Looking for a field trip? Try to visit a local oil and vinegar tap room. Many local shops also offer oil tastings. Here is a guide to take on your tasting.
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