The Center for Research and Practice of School Psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Athens, in cooperation with the International School Psychology Association organized a cross-cultural project titled: “The Olympic Spirit through Children’s Voice” . The goal of this effort was to capture children’s and adolescents’ awareness of the Olympic values and ideals in the context of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
This project was made possible through the development of an international communication network among participating countries. Students from 21 countries joined this effort: Albania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, The Netherlands, Turkey, UK, and USA. Within Greece, the host country of the 2004 Olympic Games, drawings were solicited from students from the Olympic cities. Participating students came from different educational settings and employed both visual arts and literature to express the Olympic ideals and values in their own personal and unique way.
The project was a success, thanks to the support of our colleagues, associates, and teachers, and the voluntary work of the students in the School Psychology Graduate Program and the scientific team in the Center for Research and Practice of School Psychology. The project had several phases. The first phase involved communication with school psychologists and colleagues from different countries who were willing to participate and who would act as country coordinators, publicizing the project. Country coordinators recruited teachers to invite children to participate in the project, and to help them express their ideas through essays, poems or drawings. Themes were proposed to teachers such as Olympic games/sports, Olympic ideals and athletes’ emotions. These themes were designed to foster classroom discussions about Olympic Games, to provide an historical context, to connect the present with the past, and to promote understanding, common ideas, and unity through the poignant ideals of the Olympics. The essays and poems were written by children in their native language, with most of the works translated by the children themselves into English, with assistance from teachers and/or country coordinators.
The next phase involved collecting the children’s work and selecting representative samples from each age group in each country. Country coordinators selected the best pieces of art and literature submitted by students in their countries, and these were subsequently sent to the Center for Research and Practice of School Psychology at the University of Athens for the final selection.
Over 1700 works were submitted, all of which were evaluated by a committee of experts. Judgments were based on artistic, aesthetic and educational grounds, with final selections compiled in a special publication. Awards and honorable mentions were given to students of every country. It was commonly acknowledged by all who participated in the evaluation and selection of the works that there was variety, resourcefulness in both ideas and techniques, and cultural individuality in the children’s works, as well as a common perception of the importance and timelessness of the Olympic values. It was particularly touching to see how children from different countries expressed interest in meeting and communicating with Greek children. Thus, children appreciated the project not simply as a competition promoting personal effort, but as an opportunity for an intercultural exchange and, above all, as a chance to express their feelings, fears, and dreams about the future of the world.
The CESEP project now moves forward to a new platform and enhanced threshold for learning. CESEP will ask students to dialogoue, write and convey art about the ideals of ethics, fair play and drug-free sport.