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Gateway to the Summer Games - Lesson Plans
National Customs
The Birth of the Ancient Games
  Grade Level: 4-8
Subject: Social Studies / Geography
Time needed: 1 X 45 min. sections
Lesson Overview

Customs vary from country to country.

Many American customs that have been passed down from generation to generation originated in countries around the world.

People are enriched through exposure to a variety of customs.

Background Information

Nations that gather at the Olympics represent many cultures and customs.

In this lesson, students will study unfamiliar countries and their customs in order to increase their understanding of people from around the world.


Students will comprehend that each country has customs that are understood and accepted by its people.

Students will study familiar and unfamiliar customs of other nations.

Students will prepare a travel guide to help tourists visiting a foreign country.


Video Segment #1: The Birth of the Ancient Games. Video available from Griffin Publishing Group at
(Note: While the video segment is a good addition to this lesson plan, it is not essential for successful completion of the activities.)
Outline Map Worksheet : Where Am I?
Student Activity Sheets: Culture Data Sheets
Maps and resource books, as necessary
Project materials (to be decided by students)


Suggested Lesson Plan:

After writing the word "customs" on the board, ask students to think about the ways their families celebrate the December holiday season. Ask students to write down five to 10 things that their families do at that time of year.

Share student ideas. Ask students to notice that some family customs are alike while others are quite unique.

Discuss why people choose to repeat activities during special times. What is the purpose of customs? Where do customs come from?


Assign students to interview their parents or grandparents. They should ask about where their ancestors came from and about unique family customs or ones that can trace back to another country. Students may share the information with the class.

  • Brainstorm possible interview questions regarding heritage and customs, such as special recipes, wedding traditions, favorite family songs or games, jokes, clothing, and other traditions.

Show Video Segment #1: The Birth of the Ancient Games, pointing out that Greek culture has influenced the cultures of many countries.

Hand out the Outline Map Worksheet: Where Am I? You may choose to create a guessing game in which students identify the names of the countries listed. Grid games could also be developed.

Hand out the Student Activity Sheets: Culture Data Sheets. Create small study groups. These groups will study each of the sixteen countries or another country of their choice, focusing on people and culture, food, dress, occupations, hobbies, celebrations and holidays, etc. Students should use at least three resources in their studies. Students may use encyclopedias, interviews, magazines, and books.

Student Products

Students will create projects that provide useful information about the country; list and explain at least five customs of the country; compare and contrast the customs with those familiar to Americans; describe ways to adjust as visitors to the country; and list ways they could help tourists from other countries feel comfortable in the United States.

Students might produce a travel guide, brochure, radio or TV news program, or a display. The purpose of this presentation is to help tourists by explaining the country and its culture. Give helpful hints about the people and how their traditions might differ from those of Americans.

Additional Activities

Evaluate the activity by writing an essay on the value of customs and traditions and how they define a people. Include ways in which people can share in the rich traditions of world cultures.

Students may develop their own mythical countries and complete activities such as designing or creating maps, flags, geographical features, climates, mythical Olympic heroes, recreational facilities, and social customs for these new countries.

(c) 1996 By Griffin Publishing / United States Olympic Committee

Published by Griffin Publishing under license from the United States Olympic Committee. This publication is a creative work fully protected by all applicable rights. All rights reserved. A classroom teacher may reproduce copies of the material in this book for classroom use only.

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