Key stage 2 lesson plans for exploring the Beijing Olympics to meet learning objectives in geography and citizenship, particularly for gifed and talented pupils, provided by Caroline Coxon

In 2008 there was a great deal in the media about Beijing and the accompanying human rights issues. Closer to home, the 2012 London Olympics are generating lots of debate on sustainable regeneration v capitalist exploitation. Sport has always been a great vehicle to engage the interest of young people and the Games have the added bonus of a background that goes beyond athletic achievement, encouraging the development of a sense of social justice and moral responsibility, as enshrined in the citizenship curriculum. For your gifted and talented pupils, they offer a perfect opportunity to develop their higher-order thinking skills, when they are presented with challenges that foster flexible thinking and imaginative solutions.

Olympic Island is a unit of which you can use as little or as much as you desire. I envisage it taking place in the space of a week.

For lots of fantastic sports-themed activities for all subjects, take a look at our book Active Enrichment – sports themed activities across the curriculum

Lesson notes

Island design

The design of the island can follow on neatly from your geography topic of the term – for instance, if you’ve been investigating rivers or studying a mountain environment then require your pupils to include those features on their map, which will both consolidate their knowledge and develop their use of geographical terms. Expect a higher level of detail from your G&T pupils – ie a river that widens and incorporates features such as meanders, ox-bow lakes, and estuaries. I wouldn’t even mention hosting the Olympics until the maps are complete, to avoid clever forward planning by your G&T pupils! But, once their designs are finished, introduce the Olympics and the process of deciding where they will be held each time. What sort of process takes place? The second session (Starter 2 on the plan below) could be extended to explore some of the issues surrounding the London Olympics in 2012. What sort of people are ‘for’ it and who is ‘against’ it? You could group pupils into opposing teams and ask them to present their respective arguments – or set up a debate. (Allowing them time to collect views of parents and other family members, and do some research as homework, will probably enrich this activity.) The reasoning and logic rehearsed for this task can then be channelled into the work on Olympic Island.

Here are the requisite additional features for the island that will ensure a challenging exercise in the subsequent sessions:

  • A city, with a shantytown on its perimeter, between the city centre and the airport.
  • A forest that is the last existing habitat for a rare plant with medicinal properties.
  • A fishing village, which is also the only tourist resort, with hotels and restaurants.

Apart from these specifications, let their imaginations run riot, fuelled by the aerial views of islands they’ve observed on Google Earth. They’ll enjoy thinking of imaginative names too.

Hosting the Olympics

Once the challenge is introduced, differentiated questioning comes into play. Simple questions such as ‘What is needed?’ can be addressed to any pupil. Open-ended questions such as ‘What do you think about knocking down the shantytown to make way for a new highway?’ are designed to stimulate critical thinking. Each group of pupils should be divided into two ‘camps’ – the developers and the islanders. G&T pupils often take readily to role play situations and it allows them the chance to make interpretations, develop hypotheses, reach conclusions and explore solutions in an active way. Monitor their participation, giving them more challenging roles – making them play ‘devil’s advocate’ where possible. You could write specific roles on cards beforehand. For example, when discussing building development, a G&T pupil could represent the shantytown dwellers about to lose their homes, be a botanist anxious to preserve a rare plant or a fisherman whose livelihood would be threatened by making the village into a tourist resort. Of course, you would expect them not only to argue their case eloquently, but also come up with creative and original solutions to problems, that go beyond the obvious. Olympic Island is one of those projects with endless possibilities, and one that gives G&T pupils unlimited scope for their abilities. Just set them the challenge and watch them go!

Key to the lesson plan

Opportunities for achieving ECM outcomes are marked within the text in brackets (S Safety H Healthy Ea Enjoy and Achieve E Economic wellbeing P Positive contribution). G&T extension activities are marked with the * icon and the text is bold.

Role play characters

Shantytown resident Mayor Fisherman Hotelier Taxi driver Shopkeeper Builder Developer Wildlife expert Tourism operator Waiter Olympics organiser Athlete Airline representative

Olympic Island

Lesson: Olympic Island Length: minimum 4 x 1 hour Subject: geography, citizenship

Key stage 2: year 5 or 6

Context and curriculum links: Geographical enquiry and skills – 2)e – make maps and plans.

Knowledge and understanding of environmental change and sustainable development – 5) a&b – recognise changes in the environment, and how it may be improved.

Context and curriculum links: Geographical enquiry and skills – 2)e – make maps and plans. Knowledge and understanding of environmental change and sustainable development – 5) a&b – recognise changes in the environment, and how it may be improved. Learning outcomes: Pupils will be able to:

  • Design an island and incorporate a variety of physical features.
  • Identify at least five benefits and five disadvantages of hosting the Olympics.
  • * Make an informed judgement about the advisability of hosting the Olympics, both in the short- and long-term.
ECM outcomes:   S Safety   H Healthy   Ea Enjoy and Achieve   E Economic wellbeing   P Positive contribution
Resources: Downloaded version of Google Earth and means to project it. Film footage of Olympic building programme.

Large sheets of thin card and art materials

Activities: Starter 1 – whole class – five minutes

Project Google Earth globe on to a screen and have some pupils zoom in on various islands. * Specify different climates or locations (eg tropical, Scottish) for G&T pupils to locate. Discuss different geographical features observed. * Recall and list these for future use.

Lesson 1 is self-evident so won’t be itemised here. To design an island, in small groups, with a number of given features – see notes. Starter 2 – whole class – five minutes Show footage ‘London Unveils 2012 stadium plan,’ ‘China trend – Olympic Stadium Beijing’ or similar – both available on YouTube! Introduction – whole class – five minutes

Describe the task – each group to consider hosting the Olympic Games on their island. What will be needed? * What do we need to consider when locating new developments on the island?

Development – small mixed-ability groups, each divided into developers and islanders – to consider, over three sessions:

1. Building development (H, E) – * consider availability of building materials or * represent views of shanty town dwellers – 30 minutes 2. Upgrading of transport network (H, E) – * represent environmentalists or disabled – 30 minutes
After each discussion, a vote must take place, so a decision can be made. Features then added to the map.

3. New jobs created (E) 15 minutes * to consider security, or health and safety issues (S)
* to consider the loss of traditional livelihoods


4. How the development can be used in the future (E) – 15 minutes * to consider negative aspects

Plenary – whole class – 15 minutes For each session add to a list of the advantages and disadvantages of hosting the Olympics. Last session – each group decides, on a vote, whether or not they will put in a bid to host the Olympics. (P) Share decision

* reasons with the class (P).

Tasks for extension

  • Make a 3-D model of the island with the proposed developments.
  • Design a publicity leaflet promoting your island.
  • * Put together a bid for the chance to host the Olympics.
  • * Form a committee to assess a rival bid and pass or fail it, giving reasons.
  • * Look at all the islands and decide which one would be the best to host the Olympics.

  • List five benefits and five disadvantages of hosting the Olympics.
  • * Write a reasoned argument proposing or disputing the value of hosting the Olympics.
  • * Identify short- and long-term benefits of hosting the Olympics.
What next?

  • Collect articles concerning Beijing and London Olympics.
  • *Discuss issues that arise in the light of acquired knowledge.
  • On a smaller scale, be involved in planning a sports day!
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