Should Vermont host the next Olympics?

Manchester’s 6th graders weigh in… to their Selectboard.

Real World PBLTeams of 6th-grade students from Manchester Elementary Middle School researched this question and put their arguments to the town.

Should Manchester VT put in a bid to host a future Winter Olympics?

Where to begin?

What does it even take to host the Olympics?

As the festivities were beginning in Pyeongchang, students brainstormed all of the things that had to be in place to host the winter games. Transportation, venues, housing, security, food, sponsors, entertainment, and finances were among the primary considerations.

Students were asked to include a sustainability statement, taking into account the natural environment as they made their proposal. They formed groups and got to work.

Bring in the experts!

Members of the community with expertise assisted students as they began their research. John O’Keefe, Manchester Town Manager, visited the school to share his experience of other events held in Manchester. Andrew Claire, a 7th grade MEMS student, had been in Pyeongchang to watch his sister compete. He had extensive knowledge of the venues, the impact on locals, and the infrastructure necessary to hold such a big event (six-lane highways and lots of hotels!)

Selectboard member Wayne Bell provided an inside view of how the Selectboard makes decisions. Students asked him for advice on how to effectively present at town hall. And former Olympian Betsy Shaw shared her experience as an athlete at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano.

What to do with the non-Googleable questions?

Students had plenty of open-ended questions, such as:

  • How would local wildlife be impacted by the development necessary to host an Olympic games?
  • What impact would the Olympics have on locals?
  • How would the Olympics impact the Battenkill River?
  • What would the return on investment be if Manchester hosted the Olympics?

While the internet was helpful in gathering background information on past Olympic games, students found the need to reach out to local sources as well.

One group emailed the Water & Sewer Department to determine the capacity of the Manchester sewage system. Another group reached out to local hotels to determine the number of beds in town. Local issues require local resources, and students contacted a variety of experts to help them consider the pros and cons of bringing the Olympics to town.

New skill: inferencing required

Gathering information was hardly enough to answer these tough questions.

Students had to extrapolate from past Olympics and apply understandings to the local community. Some students analyzed costs and profits, which led them to be concerned for taxpayers. (Yes, this is the first time I have heard 6th graders express concern for the burden placed on taxpayers!)

Other students examined the suspected impact on local waterways and determined that the negatives outweighed the positives.

One group focused on the impact to locals. They found that construction, noise, and traffic would significantly impact the people who call Manchester home.

The findings were nearly unanimous: Manchester should not host the Olympics.

The students were persuasive and the Select Board agreed: the Olympics have gotten too big for a town like Manchester to accommodate.

A satisfying challenge

Student reflections had a common theme: presenting to the Selectboard was both satisfying AND challenging! Not only was the Selectboard an authentic audience, the board also had the opportunity to meet real community members and future voters. Their constituents.

What do your young Vermonters want to tell their Selectboard?

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Jeanie Phillips

Professional Development Coordintator at Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education
Jeanie Phillips is a former (and always!) school librarian and a Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. A 2014 Rowland Fellow, she is passionate about student engagement, equity, collaboration, and questions. Jeanie likes to hike the woods of southern Vermont with her dog Charlie and is always in search of a well-brewed cup of tea and a good book.

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