Recommended age group: 7–18
Time required: one to two 45–60 minute sessions
Equipment: History of the Olympic Games presentation (optional), Creative arts activity sheet (optional), art equipment.
Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic Movement, strongly believed that the Olympic Games should be 'the marriage of sport and art'.
- Start by reminding the children that the five interlocking Olympic rings symbolise the coming together of different nations from all over the world to compete fairly in sport.
- Find out more about the symbols of the Games using the Olympic and Paralympic history assemblies.
- List the five continents on the board – or show them on a world map.
- Split the class into five groups and allocate each group a continent. Or, you could focus on one continent only, perhaps covering all five over the course of a term/year. If you take a whole school or year group approach, each class could be allocated a continent.
- Support each group/class in researching the different types and styles of art originating from the continent they are focusing on. Ideas might include paintings, prints, textiles, mosaics/tiling, street art/graffiti, sculpture, cartoons, jewellery, masks and pottery. The groups should select a style that most appeals to them and discuss where it originated, its key features, and the techniques and materials used.
Depending on the age and ability of the children (or the time available), you may prefer to focus on one of the ideas below.
- Look at Monica Bonvicini's huge art installation 'Run' created for Art in the Park. This consists of nine metre tall letters forming the word 'run' and acts as a mirror during the day, lighting up to form a warm glow at night.
- Help the children to create their own striking 'word art' by choosing a size and form appropriate to their chosen word. Try creating a piece of art from the Olympic and Paralympic Values and help them to look at the ways that different fonts, colours and textures can convey meaning.
- Look at a selection of African masks online. As part of ceremonial and ritual costume, African masks often link humans with animals and the natural environment. Use traditional colours like red, yellow ochre and blue to bring your own masks to life and attach string, buttons, beads or other additions. A total of 53 African nations competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games so could the colours chosen reflect Team GB and ParalympicsGB team kit colours to show a link between Africa and Europe?
- Alternatively, explore some of the features of statues and sculptures from African art. The children could use African athletes and colours from their country's flags as inspiration for their own sculptures.
- China hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games so look at a selection of Chinese calligraphy. Use the activity sheet below to trace over the Mandarin Chinese characters for Values words. Encourage children to use a paintbrush with black paint or ink to make their pictures more authentic. Older children may can be challenged to investigate each character, finding out more about how each word is constructed.
- Talk about the way that Chinese characters are not simply letters but (on their own or combined together) represent a whole word or concept - with each individual character one syllable.
- More complex words - such as the Values - are often made up of the characters for other words. For instance, determination includes first the character 決 (jué), meaning to decide, and then 心(xīn),meaning heart. Together you get determination, to resolutely decide and pursue something with all your heart.
- The Japanese comic/cartoon style of Manga has a very distinct style, which the children can explore. Look at examples and note the exaggeration or simplification of features, and the changing of proportions (large eyes, triangular noses, pointed chins etc).
- Alternatively, look at the works of Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor, who designed 'The Orbit' in the Olympic Park.
- Look at a series of Olympic posters for the 1984 Los Angeles Games. What techniques have the artists used to give a flavour of America in their work? Look at the use of the American Flag in the artworks.
- Olympic posters have a long history. Create a timeline of some examples and have a go at creating a poster for the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- The Aborigines used objects found in nature, such as bark or stones to create visual images of their journeys and achievements. Look at a variety of traditional Aboriginal dot paintings with the class. The colours in these pictures came from what was around them, for example, coal from fires, plants, sand and blood. Use large stones and acrylic paint to help the children create their own Aboriginal dot art.
- Alternatively, explore Emily Kngwarreye's early batik cloth works, if textiles are available or the intriguing foil artwork first created/invented by Dennis Towers. Can the children find out about the 'Festival of the Dreaming', a festival held for the 2000 Sydney Games that celebrated dance, painting and literature of the indigenous population. The 2000 Sydney Games is only time that Oceania has hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Time to get creative!
Once you have decided on artwork styles, ask the children to think about iconic images, moments or symbols, from an Olympic and Paralympic Games, for example, a scene from a sporting event, an athlete in motion, a favourite athlete winning a Gold medal, the spectators or volunteers, a venue, a Value word, a flag, the Torch/Cauldron, or perhaps the medals.
If you have five groups/classes studying art from a different continent, agree on one iconic image from the ideas shared, which they will all work with. Otherwise, children can choose their own individual images. You will find the Image bank useful for this.
Give each child a copy of the image chosen and support them in recreating this image in the style of the art medium chosen from their continent. What great sport-inspired masterpieces can they create?
Go the extra mile
- Create an inspiring exhibition of Olympic and Paralympic World Art for parents and friends, or extend it to the local community. Share your new-found knowledge of art across five continents.
- Hold a medal ceremony for the artworks the children have created.
- Invite your class to think about the textures in their artwork. Which pieces of art could be read by a partially sighted or blind athlete competing in the Paralympic Games, for example?
- Encourage and inspire a love of reading, music and dance from across the five continents.
- Research the wide range of art created by disabled artists from around the world – try creating your own works of art using only mouths or feet.