Monday, July 23, 2012

Making connections in an Olympic year

With the school year quickly approaching, I’m, as always, brainstorming how I will grab these history students’ attention at the beginning of the year.  Using the Olympics as a “hook” might be the perfect connection between past as present.  We can spend some time on the ancient games and culture as well as a few games as case studies.  With my high school students, the 1936 Nazi Olympics would be a great example of how politics drive the actions of a nation and effects the international community- something we will continually come back to over the course of the year.

If making this connection is something you’re interested in, there are some fabulous resources out there.  Most notably, there is an excellent exhibition on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website, titled “The Nazi Olympics: Berlin1936”.  This is something that is easily navigated by students. It is supported by a teacher’s guide, which holds valuable, well-written activities and discussion questions. (There is also this set of lesson plans developed by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education to accompany the exhibition.)

Students might also be intrigued by the Jewish VirtualLibrary’s article “The Nazi Olympics”.  It lists out non-“Aryan” medalists in the games.  Students always are amused when they see examples of Hitler’s ideas on Aryan supremacy being nullified.

Every four years, we have the opportunity to watch the world unite for friendly competition.  I believe it is always great to remind our students what we learned from the past and have a frank discussion about what we can improve on today.

Have a great beginning to your school year!

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