Primary Primary Science

Primary – using the Olympics in Science

Activity One – Muscle groups
Year 1 to Year 6

Ask the children to tell you what it is in our body that helps us to move and to complete tasks. Some will say bones and joints; others will correctly identify the muscles. If you have studied bones and muscles before then the children will be able to describe how muscles work to control movement. If you have a skeleton in school, show the children what happens when the movement of the bones isn’t controlled by muscles – the skeleton collapses.

Now set up a small range of ‘Olympic events’ such as running, jumping, throwing and lifting. Ask the children to ‘take part’ by slow motioning each event, thinking carefully about which muscles they use.
Complete a chart or Carroll or Venn diagram to show which muscle sets are used for each event. Do any of the muscle sets appear in more than one set? Ask the children to say whether a sprinter would do well in weightlifting and say why or would a high jumper succeed in the hammer throwing event?

Activity Two – Chow for ChampionsYear 3 to Year 6

Sportspersons have a strict diet to help them win.

Take a look together at the different food groups, how they help us to stay healthy and discuss how they might help an athlete. You’ll need to go a little more into the detail of how they help for the activity in which the children need to devise a diet for the day before and the day of the athlete’s event. They’ll need to find out how quickly the body can get energy from different types of carbohydrates and sugars or how long it takes for muscles to develop from protein intake.

You may be able to check your ideas against the actual diets of the athletes by following their twitter feeds or following their training blogs.

As a fun assessment activity following the lesson, give the children the diets of fictional athletes and ask the children to order them in events depending on their diets. For example:

Fast Freddie eats pasta with salmon for dinner the night before his race then in the morning has a bowl of porridge made with skimmed milk and honey. Just before he runs, he snacks on a banana.

Rapid Rajiv eats McDonalds with a large milkshake the night before and has cocoa pops with coffee in the morning before the race and just before he runs, tucks into a Mars bar.

Swift Sandhu has steak and chips, followed by ice cream the night before and has two glasses of wine. In the morning he grabs a piece of toast and before the race has a packet of crisps.

Blistering Bernie has chicken curry with lots of rice the night before. In the morning he has a bran cereal with semi-skimmed milk followed by a fruit juice. Just before the race he downs a bottle of energy drink.

Speedy Sam has fish and chips in the evening then a cooked breakfast in the morning. Just before running he has a bottle of water.

Activity Three – Animal Olympics
Reception to Year 6

We all know animals that can run, jump, swim and carry but in the spirit of the Olympics, if they were all competing fairly in an event, who would win?

For this activity, the children will need to collect data or use information that you provide to decide who, from the animal kingdom, would be crowned champion. Before setting out to do the research, ask the children to predict the medal winners and give reasons for their choices. Some are easier than others but the results are often fascinating:

Try these events…
100m sprint
The contestants:
In lane one – the ostrich
In lane two – the cheetah
In lane three – the polar bear
In lane four – the horse

Weightlifting (or carrying)
Representing Africa – the gorilla
Representing India – the elephant
Representing Great Britain – the ant
Representing Europe – the donkey

100m Freestyle
Lane one – barracuda
Lane two – swordfish
Lane three – shark
Lane four – Killer whale

High Jump
For Australia – the kangaroo
For Great Britain – the hare
For Africa – the cricket
For Europe – the flea

You’ll have to make allowances for size but many of the statistics say for example – ‘can lift twenty times its own weight’ or can jump ten times its height.

You can extend the activity further by asking the pupils to predict where humans would come in the events by referring to the Guinness Book of World Records

Dave Lewis
Primary teacher

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