The Afterschool Olympics (TAO)
The word 'TAO' 道 translates into "path", "method", "principle" or "way", the character 教 translates into '"teach" or "class."
The Afterschool Olympics (TAO) is a virtual education platform that allows students and families to engage in hands-on, minds-on challenges. These challenges, also called events or obstacles, are organized in a game-style format and are designed to help develop various cognitive skills, thinking skills, and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) principles.
TAO is called a platform instead of a program for a few key reasons and in this web-centric world that we live in (and therefore teach and learn in), it is important that we recognize the distinction. While a program offers structured content, a platform is more of a collaborative framework and network. The Afterschool Olympics platform provides choices to learners based on their interests and ways to engage with other participants from around the world. It also gives participants the ability to create new challenges.
TAO challenges are FREE for anyone to access and are open to everyone! The challenges are designed and/or curated because of the way they challenge both kids and adults. Ideally, we see teams of adults and kids working together, or against each other, to complete tasks.
This informal educational resource is being used by classroom teachers, homeschools, community-based organizations, and families because it makes learning fun. Improving cognitive functions and the many different dimensions of critical thinking and reasoning is more important now than it ever has been before. In the last 10 years alone, we have seen a parabolic rise in our access and exposure to information and news. Being able to process, analyze, and apply this information on this level isn't easy!
Unlike other platforms, and many new programs that claim to have cognitive benefits and increased learning outcomes, The Afterschool Olympics isn't simply a series of screen-based activities. TAO uses gamification mechanics to drive mental and physical engagement in scaffolded, accessible learning tasks. Gamified brain training is both a scientifically and clinically proven method of increasing brain plasticity and more effectively applying various types of thinking (critical thinking, creative thinking, computational thinking, strategic thinking, game thinking, etc..). The three main principles or pillars supporting this platform are collective emotional intelligence, systems & strategy, and cognitive performance.
Everywhere! TAO can be done at home, in school, outside, or wherever a person desires. Some challenges require simple materials like post-it notes or paper, and others are more abstract and simply require some thought!