In order to meet children where they are developmentally and intellectually, the Arts Olympiad program combines art, sports, and technology in a multi-level program to teach children aged eight to 12 years about peace. The program, implemented by the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), is a worldwide initiative that engages children in peace-building on local (classroom), national, regional, and global levels, teaching them cooperation, positive identity formation, empathy, creativity, leadership, and multiculturalism (see more information here).
This specific program is intended be utilized by elementary school teachers (and possibly after-school childcare providers and other informal educators), and adaptations of it could be effective for children from early elementary school through middle school. By employing media that are universally accessible – visual art and sports – this program is both highly inclusive and successful at connecting children from vastly different regions and cultures. At the same time, the elements of collaboration and cooperation built into the program (for example, classes work together to select which artworks will be submitted to the next level of the competition) teach children tolerance and community.
Participation in the Arts Olympiad could be easily implemented in classrooms as well as in informal settings. Because the only materials required are art supplies (crayons, markers, paper, pencils), this project needs virtually no preparation. Ninety minutes should be plenty of time for children to draw their favorite sport, share their artworks, and decide together which pieces will be entered to the next level of the competition. Teachers should supplement the project with a discussion of sports in an international context, such as exploring the Olympic Games or the World Cup. They could even go one step further and use sports as a metaphor to talk to young students about conflict, collaboration, and healthy behaviors.
The Arts Olympiad supports learning about cooperation, tolerance, identity, empathy, creativity, and leadership throughout the four levels of the competition, as children are increasingly exposed to their larger local, national, regional, and global communities. It teaches multiculturalism and international relations in a way young children can understand, and exposes them to the understanding that, though people may have many differences, they also have much in common.
(By Emily Ludwin Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org)