Francis Olympic Field

Did you know that the Summer Olympic Games were once held in St. Louis?

The 1904 Olympics were supposed to be held in Chicago, but the organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, were not thrilled about that idea. They actually began to plan their own international sports contest, forcing Pierre de Coubertin himself to step in and move the Summer Games to St. Louis. The central location for the 1904 Olympics was Francis Field, located on the campus of Washington University, and named for David R. Francis, a former governor of Missouri and president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. (Other venues included Forest Park, Glen Echo Country Club, and Creve Coeur Lake.) Among the events contested at Francis Field in 1904 were wrestling, gymnastics, athletics, lacrosse, tug of war, and roque (the only time that sport has been an Olympic event!).

The stadium is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, but is also the current home of the Washington University Bears football team, as well as the track and field and soccer teams.

Adjacent to the field is the St. Louis Olympic Spectacular, which was unveiled in 2018:

Although there was controversy surrounding the 1904 Olympic Games (something we can definitely relate to today!), it’s still pretty cool knowing that St. Louis is one of only three U.S. cities to host the Summer Olympics!

The Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis

Earlier this year, it was announced that St. Louis was going to receive an “Olympic Spectacular.” What is an Olympic Spectacular? you might ask. Aren’t all Olympics spectacular? And what does St. Louis have to do with the Olympics? An Olympic Spectacular is a large-scale sculpture of the Olympic Rings granted only to cities who have hosted the Olympic Games. It’s been 114 years, but St. Louis was the host of the 1904 Summer Games (the III Olympiad!), and the city was finally granted the right to display a Spectacular of its own!

Last month, the sculpture, which sits on a podium-like base, was unveiled on the campus of Washington University, adjacent to Francis Field, which was the site of many of the events at the 1904 Olympics. We stopped by to see it after church yesterday, and as someone who has loved the Olympics since I was a small child, it was a thrill to see it!

Eventually, a second Spectacular will be installed at another St. Louis Olympic site, possibly in Forest Park or near Creve Coeur Lake, which hosted the 1904 rowing competition. For now, though, St. Louis has finally been recognized as an Olympic city!

Olympics School–Day One

We kicked off our 2016 summer school today (ish)! Actually, we started a little bit yesterday, with the making of an Olympic banner for our school room (how have we made it through two Summer Games, as well as two Winter Olympics without doing that before now?!?), as well as flags and mascots to go with it. We went over the list of countries on our medal chart, and discussed why each had been chosen. The children also took a look through the workbooks I made for them, too, although they’ll have to wait until next week to get started on them.

Today we learned a bit about the geography of Brazil, and took a look at the Olympic torch (it has a very cool design!) and the path it has traveled on around Brazil since the journey began in May. We made edible Olympic torches, and had a Brazilian feast for dinner. And, of course, we watched the Opening Ceremony. We have lots of fun activities to do and things to learn over the next two weeks…plus a lot of events to watch! I’m so excited about our third Summer Olympics summer school!

Olympics School–Day One

Today we kicked off our two-week-long Olympics unit!

First things first…we prepared our “passports.” All of the pertinent information needed to be filled in: Name; Nationality; Date of Birth; Place of Birth; Date of Issue; Height; Weight; Eye Color; and Hair Color. The children had fun measuring each other and taking turns hopping on the scale. They also colored the venue “stamps” for their passports, but they had to give them back to me when they were done, as I’m in charge of “immigration.”

We discussed a bit of Olympics history…where they were first held, where the name “Olympics” comes from, and when the modern Olympics began. We also learned about the creation of the Olympic rings, and what they can mean. And since we were discussing the Olympic rings, we also made our paper plate rings, which have been added to our “Olympic wall.”

Today’s read-aloud was G is for Gold Medal, which was helpful to Turkey and Bunny, because their assignment in their workbooks was playing the “alphabet game,” with the Olympics as the theme. They breezed through most of the game, but Q and Y gave them some pause. Z was unusually easy though…being big fans of Greek myths, they both wrote Zeus!

We did a bit of map work, too. We spent some time talking about the different parts of the United Kingdom, and locating them on the map. We also talked a bit about the Commonwealth, and some of the member nations. Finally, we found all of the countries on our medal chart on the map. Even I needed a little help to locate Kenya!

We won’t have a big craft each day, but we’ll have pictures to color, worksheets to do, stories to read, and more Olympic facts to learn. And every day, the children will earn at least one new “stamp” for their passports. It’s going to be a fun two weeks!

Today’s Passport Stamps: “Official” Passport Stamp and Olympic Rings

Activities for the Olympics

Let me just start by saying that my favorite place for Olympics printables and craft ideas is Activity Village. I used this site for our Diamond Jubilee coloring pages and worksheets as well, and it has tons of great resources. That being said, I also found other places with great ideas, too, and have chosen quite a few of them for our school. If you look, there are also lapbooks galore available for the Olympics, but I’ve never gotten into the lapbooking craze, so that’s one thing we won’t be doing. I’ve also heard good things about the Amanda Bennett Olympics study, but I just don’t have time for everything! The best part about all of these projects? I’ve had to purchase very few supplies to complete them…most of the items are things we already had around the house!

  • Torch Craft–Our first project, before the Olympics officially start, will be making a torch. There are lots of torch crafts out there, but this my favorite. We may even have our own family torch relay!
  • Olympic Rings–There are also a lot of Olympic Rings crafts, but I thought that paper plate Olympics rings were especially cute. This will be particularly fun for Moose and Ladybug (and good cutting practice, too), but I’m sure Turkey and Bunny will probably want to make their own, as well.
  • Design-a-Flag–Prior to the Opening Ceremonies, we’ll each have a chance to design our own flag. We’ve done this before, and it’s always fun to see how the children’s ideas for their personal flags change!
  • Memory Verse/Handwriting–The New Testament has several verses that are appropriate when discussing the Olympics, and as long as we’re memorizing one, we may as well work on our handwriting at the same time!
  • Trip Planning–One of our big projects will be planing a (fictional) trip to London. I even purchased a travel guide…if I’m lucky, maybe someday I’ll get to use it for real (even if it will be outdated by “someday”). We’ll look for landmarks we want to visit and map it all out. Cost is no object for this trip!
  • Workbooks–Although I did purchase two consumable books for the children to share, the bulk of their worksheets and coloring sheets will come in the form of workbooks I put together for them. There will be lots of different activities, including coloring pages, word searches, Sudoku, word scrambles, mazes, and more. I even found notebooking pages!  They’ll make a nice keepsake of our studies when we’re all done, too.
  • Design-Your-Own Olympics Items–This will become part of the children’s workbooks when it’s done. Each child will design his or her own Olympic logo, mascot, team shirt, and medal.
  • Medal Chart–No Olympics would be complete without tracking the medals won. We’ve chose 10 countries…the United States, of course, and host country England (technically the United Kingdom, to be exact), and then picked other countries we’re interested in, making sure to have at least one from each participating continent. And while we’re counting medals, we can also learn about this year’s design on the NBC Olympics website.
  • Medals–Speaking of medals, one craft project will be making medals as awards for our “Family Olympics.” We might make salt dough medals, or we might just use metallic cardstock. We did glitter last time, so I know that I don’t want to that again, although they did look awesome!
  • Family Olympics–The activities will be whatever we choose. It could be a physical activity like a race, or something silly like who can shuck an ear of corn the quickest. Maybe we could even award a medal for the winner of a family spelling bee!
  • Olive Leaf Crowns–I found a pattern for this in The Olympic Experience in Your School, but all you really need is green leaf shapes and  a green construction paper headband. Since we’ll be learning about both the modern and ancient Olympic games, it seems fitting to make awards that reflect both!
  • Passports–I also got this idea from The Olympic Experience in Your School, but decided to change it around a bit. I ordered some cute sticker book passports from Oriental Trading, and will be using those stickers, as well as some “stamps” I make to mark the different “venues” we’ve visited, including the history of the Olympics, design-your-own, sports, and the Olympic Spirit around the world.
  • Research Project–Turkey and Bunny will be given the task to write a short report on either a famous Olympian, a participating country, or an Olympic event. This report will also go into their workbooks.
  • Union Jack–I looked at a lot of Union Jack crafts, and I thought this would be a fun project for the children to do, and would reflect the host country at the same time. It’s also something a little different, since we just colored Union Jacks for the Diamond Jubilee last month.
  • Union Jack Cake–This activity is all mine…I’m going to make a Union Jack cake for the Opening Ceremonies, provided I can get the conversions figured out. I may also make some different foods from around the world, depending on how adventurous I’m feeling.
And I almost forgot…
  • Tea Party–Anytime we learn about anything British, it’s time for a tea party. We did it for the Royal Wedding, and again for the Diamond Jubilee, and we’ll be doing it once more for the Olympics. I try to switch up the menu, and also serve a different flavor of tea each time, so we get to try new things, and so it’s always a little different!

These are only the big activities. We’ll also be doing a pictogram study, looking for world flags from our flag sticker book during the Opening Ceremonies, learning about the Olympic motto and oath, studying some Olympic vocabulary words, listening to Summon the Heroes, learning a little geography and history, reading a whole bunch of books, plus whatever else I throw in. I love the Olympics, and they provide a great opportunity for fun and learning!