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Learning from the Past
Origin of the Modern Summer Games

Grade Level: 6-8
Subject: Social Studies / English
Time needed: 1 X 45 min. sections
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Lesson Overview

Ideas from the past can enrich the present and guide the future.

Background Information

In a world of quickly changing styles, fashions, and values, students may feel that only new ideas are valuable. In fact, most ideas are based on the beliefs, ideas, and knowledge of past generations. Lessons of the past can enrich the present and act as springboards for new ideas.


Students will compare and contrast the modern and ancient Olympic Games.

Students will consider how people use ideas from the past to enrich the present.


Student Reading: The Ancient Games
Student Reading: The Games Revived
Venn Diagram: Compare and Contrast Ancient Games/Modern Games


Sample Lesson Plan:

Have students tell a favorite story from past family experience.

  • You may begin with the question, "How many students have heard stories that begin with 'When I was your age...'?" (Example: Stories of how far parents walked to school in the snow.)
  • Discuss student feelings about these stories. Are they relevant today?

Explain that societies value traditions and pass them down to each generation, but that we can also learn from and improve on the past.

  • Name products at the grocery store that say "New and Improved."
  • Ask students to list the things that they wish could be continually improved and those things that they wish would stay the same.


Discuss as a class ways in which Pierre de Coubertin was inspired by the study of Greek culture and the discovery of ancient Olympia, the original site of the ancient Olympic Games.

Assign students to read the two Student Readings: The Ancient Games and The Games Revived. Use the Venn Diagram: Compare and Contrast Ancient Games/Modern Games to compare and contrast the various elements of the ancient and modern Olympic Games.

  • You may wish to have students explore technological improvements in the tools and equipment used over the years in the modern Olympic Games.

Student Products

Write an essay describing how the spirit of Olympism was a gift from ancient Olympians that is still applicable today.

Create a timeline that traces an Olympic event from ancient times to the present, and then predict the changes that might occur in the sport in the future.

Use a combination of old utensils, appliances, or tools collected from home or second-hand shops to create a tool for a new Olympic game.

  • Write the rules of the new game and describe the use of the tool.

Additional Activities

Have students divide into groups of four to role-play the following scenario. Then have the groups submit their plans before the entire class. The entire class should determine which one of the plans they would submit to the Olympic committee:

  • The students in your classroom have just been awarded a contract to review the awards ceremonies of the Olympic Games.
  • Students are to make recommendations to the governing board about changes that should be made during the awards ceremonies.
  • Students should write proposals about the best way to award the winners their medals.
  • Possible questions to be asked: Should flags of countries be raised? Should national anthems be played? Should medals be used as awards, or should something new be given? Should the winners stand on platforms of varying heights?
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(c) 2004 By Griffin Publishing / United States Olympic Committee

Published by Griffin Publishing under license from the United States Olympic Committee. This publication is a creative work fully protected by all applicable rights. All rights reserved. A classroom teacher may reproduce copies of the material in this book for classroom use only

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