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January 25, 2014

The Olympics: Body and Mind – Lesson Plan

By Katie Gould, PBS NewsHour Extra Teacher Resource Producer

Introduction

Use this dual science lesson plan to learn about the Olympics through the lens of the mind (psychology) and the body (physiology).

Subjects

Biology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Mental Health, Physiology

Estimated Time

One 90 minute class periods

Grade Level

Middle school and high school

Materials

Warm Up Activity

The mind body connection

Explain to students that they are going to be studying the Olympics through the lens of the body and the mind.

To get them in the spirit, have students watch the IOC’s “Best Bits of the London 2012 Olympics | Highlights” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbsXUJITa40

Ask students if they consider Olympic athletes to be geniuses by raising their hands.

Then pass out the short answer page “Are Olympic athletes geniuses?” and read them the definition

ge·nius

noun \ˈjēn-yəs, ˈjē-nē-əs\

: a very smart or talented person : a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable

Then watch the PBS Digital Media Studios video “Are the Olympics a Model for Creating Geniuses?”

Then in pairs discuss the short answer questions and then complete them individually.

Now pose this question to the students: Which is more important for an Olympic athlete to be successful- the body or the mind? Or is it some combination of both? Give students time to discuss as a class.

Have students to complete the pie chart on the “Hypothesis and Conclusion” page and defend their answer is the space below the chart.

Main activity – Body

Pass out the article “Are Olympic athletes really mutants?” and read together with students.

Now explain that the mind and body are actually very connected to each other through physiological means- like hormones and neurotransmitters. Scientists hypothesize that often the amount of a physical chemical inside our body can affect our mood and thinking. For example, under times of great stress the hormone adrenaline pumps through our body and gives us the famous “adrenaline rush” feeling. To briefly learn more about this hormone watch the short video from Discovery.

Hormones and neurochemicals effect how our body responds to things like stress.  Our body and mind are well equipped to handle small periods of stress, but not long term.  The results of long term stress to the body can have harmful effects. In the following video clip Dr. Robert Sapolsky explains.

Have students return to their “Hypothesis” short answer page and complete the second pie chart and explain their answer.

Main Activity – Mind

Ask students what kinds of emotions do they think the athletes at the Olympics feel and go through? Write their answers on the board.

Pass out the “Introduction to Psychology and Depression” to students and together read the first two questions and answers.

Then ask students to watch the following “Re-live Vancouver 2010!” video and imagine they are a psychologist/psychiatrist who is interested in analyzing the behaviors and mental states of the athletes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6HMvTrs5DE

Play the video through, but stop around 1:52 seconds and ask students to pay particular attention to the skier wearing the #10 on his chest.

Ask students if they saw any behavior that they feel is different from normal circumstances and try to identify what may have caused it.

Two examples:

  • Most people would be terrified and couldn’t function if they were asked to perform in front of millions of people and yet the athletes are able to perform nearly perfectly.
  • People often cry when they are sad, but some of the winners were also crying.

On the same page ask students to read the question and answer to “What are mental health disorders and how many people do they affect?”

Ask students if they think it is possible to be an Olympic athlete and to have a mental health disorder? Discuss why or why not.

Now read the rest of the “Introduction to Psychology and Depression” together

Then read the article “The Price of Being Strong: Risks to the Mental Health of Athletes” by Lisa Firestone.

Mention to students that they are going to learn more about the skier with the #10 from the earlier and either watch or read the story “The Last Flight of Speedy Peterson”.*

*Warning, Speedy Peterson committed suicide and that is what the story is about.  This might be difficult for students to hear, but it is also an important message about getting people help.

After watching/reading the story give students time to debrief and reflect on what they have heard and pass out pages one and two the “Teen Suicide” handout from the National Institute of Mental Health. Explain to students that one of the best ways to combat mental illness and suicide is to talk about it and bring it into the open.  Because there is so much negative stigma attached to both people feel like they must keep it a secret and not get help.  This is exactly the opposite of what a person struggling needs. We can all learn from the tragedy of Speedy’s death by bringing these issues out into the open and helping those in need to see that they have other options. The “Teen Suicide” handout explains in more detail where 24-hour services are available should they or someone they know ever needs help.

Have students fill out their final pie chart and explain their answer in the space below as well as the question at the bottom about suicide.

For students who are interested in sport psychology hand out the “How sport psychology helps athletes” informational text.

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  • Common Core Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      Argument
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
    • Informative
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    • Narrative
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
    • Speaking and Listening
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.7.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

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