Explore the Science of Winter Sports

The BIG GAMES are on their way! I love the pride that swells up every time I watch and athlete take on their lifelong Olympic dreams… and because I am such a sap, I usually end up with tears in my eyes (especially if there’s a cut to the athletes parents). When I’m not an emotional wreck watching the games, I am always blown away by the amount of real-world science that can be seen. Friction, gravity, energy transfer, momentum, acceleration, speed, velocity, inertia… it’s all there! The Games are the perfect opportunity to get students excited about physics concepts.

I happen to be a Winter Games girl myself. I love figure skating and ski jump, and have always had an affinity for bobsled (something about being a nineties kid and loving the movie Cool Runnings). With the Winter Games kicking off Feb. 9th, my little ones and I started designing some fun STEM activities and games… and of course the teacher in me took it one step further to design some resources to support and extend the science behind the sports!

Science of Winter Sports - TpT Cover

Also, there is an Ah-May-Zing site I use to pair with my resources. NBC Learn has put together some of fabulous videos that teach the science behind sports (Olympics and beyond). I highly encourage you to check them out… and there’s so much more than science. I promise you’ll find something awesome!

We had such fun building this ski slope, playing our own version of curling, and creating a bobsled track for marbles to speed down! Here’s the deets:

Build a Downhill Ski Slope

This tricky track is designed for a penny to ski down. You can alter the height of the slope (MATH!) to control the penny as it makes its way down the track. Add flags to race around and moguls (bumps) using pom poms, cotton balls, or shape them out of aluminum foil… the options are endless! For extra fun, add a jump. You’ll need some space to accelerate, but it sure would be entertaining.

I hot glued a mini pom pom to my penny (see the Penny Curling example) and the added weight made it slightly easier to control the penny. I like using hot glue for this so the pom poms are easy to remove when the fun is done.

You can find my individual Downhill Skiing resource materials in my store or as a part of my larger bundle.

Play a Round of Curling With Pennies

I played this game FOR WAY TOO LONG, but it’s just so fun. Similar to shuffleboard, Penny Curling shows momentum exchange and friction in action. The goal is to have the most pennies for your team closest to the “house” which is the center circle. Each team has four “rocks” to throw (well… slide, actually) and the teams alternate, taking turns. An official curling team throws eight stones each, but four worked well for us.

I hot glued a mini pom pom to my pennies making four red and four blue. I also thought it would be fun to experiment with mass, perhaps gluing two or three pennies (with pom poms atop) together. Students could then investigate how they as the athlete need to adjust their game plan to win. Partner with my individual Curling resource or as a part of the larger bundle.

Marble Bobsled Racing

I LOVE watching bobsledding races. The power and acceleration, the choreographed on-boarding of the the sled, the sound of the rails slicing through the ice. The sled reaches top speeds as it swerves and turns. We built our track using paper plates, paper cups, and tape. After a few trial runs, we broke out some construction paper and cardstock as well to help keep our marble on the track.

Students will learn that strong support is key as well as a smooth track. In the turns, they may need to add construction paper to the outer wall. Check out some bobsled race videos and have them discuss how the sled behaves in each turn… then have them try to recreate that on their tracks. The resources you see here are available individually in my store or as a part of the larger bundle which includes all three sports and instructions for an independent research project.

Ideas for Extension:

  • Have each team represent a different country and hold your own mini-Olympics.
  • Students could then follow their countries medal count in the 2018 Games.
  • Award medals to the top three teams in each sport. (FREEBIE COMING SOON!)
  • Have students choose another sport and design a game to play. Have them write “How to Play” procedures, and “Tips and Tricks” to win the game. Set up all the games and have students rotate through.
    • How fun would penny ski jumping or snowboarding be?!


I’d love to hear how you are using these exciting STEM activities. Leave a comment below!


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