How to Host a Metric Field Day
Celebrate National Metric Week with a fun-filled field day where learners actively apply the metric system.
By Lynsey Peterson
As a child, I was always excited for our school’s annual field day. Like most schools, ours was scheduled toward the end of spring as the weather was getting warmer. However, my favorite season has always been fall. The clear, crisp, autumn days just beg for me to go outside. Teachers often find themselves teaching basic skills during the early part of the school year so most of the learning happens indoors. This year, try mixing it up by taking your class outside for a metric field day that integrates the core subjects with the metric system and a day of kinesthetic activities. You can even use the recent Summer Olympic Games as inspiration for the event.
Prepare Pupils, Parents, and Provisions
To plan your metric field day, first decide how much time you will be able to devote to the event. You could spend a few days, a half day, or a full day. You may also need to get school and parent permission for the event. Gather needed materials, such as stopwatches, meter tapes, balances or scales, and graduated cylinders. If you teach science only, you could partner with teachers of other subjects to make the field day more interdisciplinary. Of course, you will also want to prepare your students with expectations for what they will be doing and learning and how you expect them to behave. Divide your class into teams or allow them to choose their own teammates. Let each team create a poster with artwork representing their group. They could also choose or write a song to play for their team when they enter the field day or win an event.
Just like the Olympics, there are a huge variety of events that you can include in your field day. Divide the events into field stations where students explore metric estimation, measurement, and conversions. For volume, try a water relay. Young athletes can pass open liters of water as they move around a track. They estimate the amount of water they have left at the end, pour it into graduated cylinders to measure it, and then convert the number of remaining milliliters into liters to determine the percentage of water that they retained. The metric unit of time can also be used in this challenge to encourage teams to complete the relay quickly. One member of each team should be in charge of keeping time by using a stopwatch. This same person records the team's time and volume on a scorecard. Tug-of-war, high-jumping, or traditional Olympic events could be used for measuring and converting units of measurement. Other events can apply metric measurements of mass.
After strenuous physical activities, teams can rest while they work on their literacy skills. Provide paper and pencils for teams to create a poem or story that will help them remember how to convert between metric units. You may wish to give them an example of your own. Young artists may also wish to illustrate the team’s written work. Provide another rest station where each team reads about the history of the metric system and its importance to society today. Snacks and water breaks can also be applied to the metric system. Have each team precisely measure a certain amount of water for their cup using clean graduated cylinders. Snacks can be weighed on a balance, and the mass converted from grams to other units.
Performance Review and Prizes
At the end of the field day, have teams turn in scorecards that show their estimations, measurements, and conversions for each event (also have them record their snack measurements on the card). To finish, have teams share their poems, stories, and artwork. Award medals, or incentives for winning, cooperation, sportsmanship, and creativity can be given as you display the poster and play the song for each team.
Helpful Metric System Resources:
Ideas for specific events are provided. The events described work both indoors and outdoors.
This is full of interdisciplinary connections and resources for teaching the metric system. Worksheets, assessments, and connections to the core disciplines are included.
History and technology are integrated into a metric system lesson. Background information, video links, and activities are included.