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2020 Tokyo Olympics

Olympic rings.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games run from 24 July to 9 August and the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games run from 25 August to 6 September. These global events provide unique and vast learning opportunities for students. Here is a collection of teaching ideas and resources to help you share the Olympic spirit with your school and community. 

About the Olympics

track race.

The Olympic Games are held every four years, with the Summer and Winter Games alternating two years apart. This year the Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan. Thousands of athletes from around the world will participate in a variety of competitions. 

Originally, the ancient Olympic Games were held in Greece at Olympia. The first games were in 776 BC and they were held up until the 5th century AD. The first modern Olympics happened in 1896 in Athens, Greece. 

Curriculum connections

NZC Curriculum icon.

By focusing on the Tokyo Olympics in your local curriculum you can explore the values of excellence, diversity, integrity, and community and participation with your students. Students can make use of key competencies and develop understandings in a range of learning areas, especially the social sciences and health and physical education

Social sciences
Students can meet achievement objectives in the social sciences by:

  • learning about the history of the Olympics
  • exploring the ways that host countries represent themselves to the world
  • examining the customs and traditions of Japan
  • considering the economic and social impact on host cities.

Links to health and physical education
Students can meet achievement objectives in health and physical education by:

  • exploring the attitudes and values relating to Olympism
  • recognising the benefits of physical movement
  • following the journeys of famous sportspeople
  • learning about and participating in Olympic sports.

How can you get involved?

Here is a selection of ideas to help you incorporate the Olympics into your teaching programme. Adapt the suggestions to suit the needs and interests of your students. 

Fireworks at Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.

Opening ceremonies
Students could view opening ceremonies from previous Olympic Games and discuss how each host country represents their cultures, values, and national identity. Students may consider how New Zealand might represent itself in an opening ceremony. What aspects of our culture, values, and national identity could we highlight?

Useful links

Research the history of the Olympics
The Olympics has a rich history encompassing the Ancient Games and the Modern Games. Students could investigate the origins and traditions of the Olympics and explore how the event has changed over time.

Useful links

Analyse current issues during the Olympic Games
Showcase China, a unit developed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, includes strategies and processes for analysing current issues. A set of five templates have been developed for this purpose. The templates can be used as they are, or adapted to suit the learning needs of your students.

Approaches to current issues during the games – Appendix 1

Mascot from Moscow 1980 Olympics.

Olympic mascots
Mascots are popular ambassadors of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Students could investigate the mascots of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics and look at mascots from previous Games. They could explore ways that mascots spread the Olympic spirit, communicate the Olympics values, and promote the cultural identity of the host countries.

Useful links

Mascots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Olympic Games mascots

Hold your own Olympic Games
One way of engaging students in the Olympic Games is to host your own Olympic Games event. Classes could represent different countries and take part in a range of sports. Olympic traditions such as opening and closing ceremonies, the lighting of the torch, Olympic values, and medal ceremonies could be included. Let's Go Tokyo (log in required) has been designed to grow student leadership skills for Year 5 - 8 students as they work towards running a simple mini-Olympics event for a younger class. 

Follow famous sportspeople
Olympic athletes are inspirational with their fierce discipline and natural talent. Students could research famous Olympians from the past and present day and send their best wishes to our New Zealand team.  

Useful links

Explore the Olympic values
The Olympic values are respect, excellence, and friendship. The Paralympic values are determination, courage, equality, and inspiration. Students could explore how these values are demonstrated by athletes during the Games and the importance of these values in their own lives. 

Useful links

Instructional series

Another great way to get your students involved in the Olympic Games is to incorporate a sports theme into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series offers a range of texts about sports and sporting events. Here are our top picks for you: 

Sports Day for Monster, Ready to Read, Yellow, 2017
Monster and his friend Jack are excited about all the events they can try at the school sports day. Monster tries several events, but things don’t go well until at last he finds a sports day activity that is just right for him.

Tom's Tryathlon, Ready to Read, Purple, 2004
In this recount, Tom talks about his first experience of participating in the Weet-Bix™ Kiwi Kids Tryathlon. 

Our First Olympians, School Journal Level 2 May 2020
“Faster, higher, stronger ...” The Olympic Games have been a source of international interest and entertainment since the late nineteenth century. This article provides information on some of our earliest Olympians. 

Iron Tamariki, School Journal Level 2, June 2014
Mana hates running, but he’s training to compete in the Iron-Māori Tamariki. His dad is sure he can do it. On the day, his whānau is there in support, and Mana is very happy with the result.

Training for Success, Connected 2014, Level 4 – What’s the Evidence?
Top athlete Phoebe Edwards and her coach, Mike Ritchie, constantly observe and measure her performance and work on improving technique, to help her train for success.

Useful resources

Game On education resource
Game On is a free online programme that aims to inspire young Kiwis to live the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect. These resources have been developed by the New Zealand Olympic Committee. To access them, schools need to register for an account.

Future focused learning and the Olympics
This blog offers a range of rich, future-focused learning opportunities based around the Olympic Games.

Showcase China – Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
These teaching and learning resources from the Asia Knowledge website were written for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. They include an integrated unit and a health and physical education unit. There are lots of ideas and activities that can be adapted to suit.

2020 Tokyo Olympics
This is the official website of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where you can find news, photos, venue information, results, plus facts and figures of how sustainability is supporting the Games.

Olympic.org – Official website of the Olympic movement
The official site of the Olympic movement offers a searchable database that allows you to find information on past games, medalled athletes, participating countries, and sports involved from the 1896 games to present day.

2020 Tokyo Paralympics
This is the official website of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics which takes place from 25 August.

Paralympics New Zealand 
This website provides stories, photographs, and profiles of our New Zealand Paralympians in Tokyo in 2020. 

Te Ara – Olympic and Commonwealth games
Te Ara provides information, images, sound recordings, and videos to help students learn about New Zealand's long history of participation at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand History Online – The Olympics
New Zealand History Online offers a multimedia exhibition about our nation's involvement with the Olympics that includes stories, images, videos, and sound recordings.

Ten intriguing facts about the Olympics
For lovers of general knowledge, this short YouTube clip shares ten interesting facts about the Olympics.

Olympic Values education in action at Discovery School
This video describes how Discovery School have used the resources provided by Olympics New Zealand for previous Olympic Games.

Olympic Values education in action at Kapanui School
This video describes how Kapanui School have used the resources provided by Olympics New Zealand for previous Olympic Games. 

Have you seen?
 

National events and the NZC
Check out our national events pages. These materials highlight national days and weeks of importance in Aotearoa. They explain how national events link to The New Zealand Curriculum and provide ideas, resources, and tools to help schools get involved. 

Do you have a story to share about the Olympics?

  • How do you include the Olympics in your local curriculum?
  • What Olympics projects or experiences have your students been involved in?
  • Do you have other resources or ideas for the Olympics that we can add to this page? 

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at nzcurriculum@tki.org.nz. We will publish the best teaching and learning ideas on this resource page.

Updated on: 06 Jul 2020


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