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PEC's Web Site Review of the Month: May 2008 by Kelly E. Duell

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Reviewed Site: Scholastics-Go For The Gold! (http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/athens_games/index.htm)

Site Content Area: Olympic Games

Site Requirements/Access:

It appears that this site will require Adobe Flash Player to play the interactive features of the front page and the interactive game, however after spending a lot of time on the site, I never saw anything indicating what was needed to view these features. When pulling the source code, there was Flash as well as JavaScript coding, so if you don't see the images or the interactive games don't function properly, you might want to ensure you have these two features enabled and/or installed.

Overview:

This site has many options and sections to enhance your program; it is kid-friendly; has teacher resources; lesson plans; and a wealth of information, all surrounding the Olympic Games.

Navigation:

If, for some reason, you choose not to use our direct link to this part of the site, it can be a tad challenging to find the "Go For The Gold!" page. To navigate through the site from Scholastics' main home page, click on the first drop-down menu item "Teachers', which is located directly to the right of the Scholastic logo, then click on "Teachers Home". From there you need to find "Teacher Resources", and click on "Lesson Plans," which will open a new page open. The fastest way to find Go For The Gold! pages is to use the "Search Lesson Plans" box, type in Olympics, leave the next box set at All Grades, and click the "Search" button. This will open a page with many different Go For The Gold! links. However, you want to scroll down about half-way until you find the link that has no grade level attached to it (hint: right underneath the title it has smaller font indicating it is for Grades 3-10; click on this link). You think that will bring you directly there, but it is not that easy; you must then click on the link in the box that says "This Unit Plan supports Go For the Gold! Activities. Finally you arrive at the page of interest! Definitely the long way around.

The Look:

The front page of Go For The Gold! is easy on the eye, sections are clearly marked, and it creates the curiosity necessary to capture the attention of our students. The imagery is colorful, cute, and the cartoon characters are in line with the new popular drawing style. Along with the imagery, there are three other links on the bottom of the page that at first glance may appear to be advertising, but let me assure you, these are links to some other very worthy pages. Of course, there are many places one can go if you like to surf the web, however we are focusing on the Olympics and teacher resources for this particular review.

Features of the Site:

This is a really interesting website with a lot of information, focusing mainly on the Science of Sport. To find the Sport Science page from the main page, look to the right side to locate the navigation, and click on Sport Science link. This will bring you to a page with various links, including sports links to baseball, cycling, skateboarding, hockey, and surfing; plus links to online activities, online exhibitions, webcasts, hands-on activities, science news, online magazine, and cool websites; there is also a link on the top for educators.

Checking out the cool graphic map on the top of the page you'll find several sections you can click on: In the News, History of the Games, In My Backyard, Get in the Game, and More to Explore.

In the News takes you to Scholastics "Get Schooled in the…" page, which highlights the latest news, athletes, and a special link for teachers. The For Teachers' link has lesson plans and resources which can be implemented into the curriculum fairly easily.

In My Backyard discusses How the Olympic Locations are Chosen, and offers another link for an integrated project, Make a Speech: Why Should the Olympics come to where you live? This lesson is nothing but fabulous. Students learn speechwriting techniques as they write and practice their own speeches. The coolest piece here is the opportunity students have to record it using the free Scholastic News Radio Hotline, 1-866-370-7720. (Directions are on the site). If you continue clicking the next button on the bottom right side, students can read Tips from the Pros, a couple very short biographies, and then listen to students' recordings from all over the Country, which I thought was really cool!

History of the Games takes you to the first page under the Who is this famous runner? link. (See details below ).

Get in the Game takes you to "It's Greek to Me" (please see details below).

More to Explore offers several different links for further exploration of the Olympic Games. These include:

Research Starter: The Olympic Games, which links to a comprehensive in-house information page, with more links, and information for the students to check out; Global Trek: Greece, which takes students on a virtual trip to the home of the original Olympic Games; Cyberhunt: Go for the Gold, where questions have clickable answers, taking students across the Globe to discover the answers; and the final link is news from a previous Olympics. Now let's take a peek at the three links on the bottom of the page…the first will bring you to the Beijing Olympics Blog, Get the latest on the Olympics (Scholastics'). The second link, Who is this famous runner? will take you to a new page with multiple sections, please see below for specifics. The third link in this bottom row is Your turn: Be a Reporter with further details to follow.

The link to the Scholastic Olympic Blog contains articles written by student reporters, some are very interesting and well-written, but you'll have to make up your mind about that yourself.

As you enter the Who is this famous runner? you will find a navigation system to the left, photos in the main content area, and on the bottom right, a next button. If you click on this button, it will take you through 40 different photos, thankfully they are in chronological order. These photos consist of athletes, important folks throughout the history of the Olympics, artifacts, and teams. Each photo is accompanied by a brief historical perspective or data regarding that particular photo. If you get lost, just back to The Olympics in Photos link.

The other links on the left side include origin and history, modern Olympics, principles and traditions, politics, and controversies. The Origin and History... section is just that, talks about where the Olympics originated and other historical facts. The Modern Olympic Games link discusses the period of time after the Olympics began again. The Olympic Principles and Traditions includes the Olympic Creed, Symbols, Flame, athlete's Oath, Olympic Movement, and Awards. Politics and the Olympics …it does claim that the Games are free of political conflict…you can be the judge of that yourself! And finally, Olympic Controversies link discusses several disputes which have arisen throughout history as well as various prohibited drugs.

Your turn: Be a Reporter takes you to another new page with three links on the left, "It's Greek to Me", "Be a Reporter", and "Genetically Altered Athletes Video". Be a Reporter is a great place to integrate with the classroom teacher or an activity the classroom teacher could provide for her students. There are four easy to follow steps for the students to create their own news story. Step two offers additional links for researching the story, and gives a text box for the students to write their story. Step three has a photo for the students to write their own caption. The fourth step is really just a review of the article, and students not only review it but, can print it as well. This would be a great place to add pod-casting into your curriculum!

It's Greek to Me is an interactive game in which the students read the definition of a root word, and then determine what the vocabulary word means. They can choose their Country and their sport before heading into the Olympic Vocabulary arena. Ten questions per round, I stopped at two rounds, so if there are more after that, let us know! Genetically Altered Athletes Video has this statement, "Today, athletes who take drugs to be better at their sports are risking their health and could be banned from competing. Now, scientific breakthroughs might make it possible for athletes of the future to change their genes in order to build more muscle. Is this fair?" Under this statement are four learn more questions and links.

Conclusion:

There are a few things that are not that nifty, such as actually finding the page within the massive Scholastic website, the site has not been updated for the Beijing Games, and you have to click through all the photos one at a time, instead of a galley-style format. My guess would be that the site will be updating the content to include the Beijing Games, so that may change fairly soon. If you can get past these few minor irritants, the content of the site is worth a look-see. There are some great pieces of information, lesson ideas, and additional features. The other thing that came to mind when reviewing this site was how it stimulated my creative juices! As the saying goes, take what you see and make it your own; do this by creating your own personalized lessons from the "stuff" you see on this site. It is a great place to get started on adding the Olympic Games into your curriculum. I hope you find it as helpful as I did!


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