Anything But a Baton Relay Race

An Olympic year is always a special time for an elementary PE teacher. We are seeing the Olympic Games through the eyes of a child, who have probably not seen the games before or were too little to remember them. To think that this is potentially the first Olympics they will remember is an incredible opportunity to tie in our learning standards with the games.

While there are certainly many events that a teacher can draw inspiration from, I am particularly biased to the original events, athletics, swimming, and chariot races! Discussing the origins of the Olympics and what the first games looked like is a great history lesson! Teachers can then move forward with the opportunity to seek input from the students- what event or sport would they like to compete in? What historical event do they think they would have found success in? What sport or event do the students believe should or should not be an Olympic sport? This feedback can help steer your creativity and lessons.

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Here is a sample of a lesson that I will introduce.

Equipment: Variety of balls, cones, noodles, hurdles, chickens- let your imagination run wild!
Set up: Set up a running track with cones at whatever distance is appropriate for the age of your students. Must have at least four cones set up so students know where to hand off their “baton”

Teacher Directions:

One of the most exciting and dynamic events to watch is the 4×100 relay in track and field. In this event, four runners each run 100 meters and hand the baton to the next runner. The team that gets the baton across the finish line the fastest wins!

Student in a relay race.

Start by showing a few clips of past races on the projector in the gym to give the students an understanding of the relay. Ask the students if they feel confident and if they could run and be successful. Most likely, they will respond enthusiastically!!!!

To organize the students, ensure there are four runners per team and allow the students to choose their own teams. Introduce the challenge of using “anything but a baton” for the relay. Provide a variety of equipment for the groups to choose from such as balls, noodles, or chickens. Each group will select one item (multiple teams can choose the same item) and decide their running order.

When a team is ready, have them set up, and then start a timer. Students can estimate how fast they think their group will complete the relay. Allow teams to run as often as time permits. Emphasize that the goal is not to compete against other teams but to challenge themselves, see if they can improve, and make meaningful changes to their performance.

Don’t forget to take photos of the activity!

The students will have so much fun with this they will beg you to do this over several days. Students can switch up equipment if they wish. You can also take teams that are listening and following directions and let them choose the “baton” another team must run with.

This activity can be used K-12; adapt for the older students and give them incredibly wacky objects to choose from! Have fun and GO TEAM USA!

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