It is pretty much impossible to work out what these objects are from observation, but that actually makes it a good starting point. Ask the students what they think these objects are. Guide them to make hypotheses from the facts that there are two of them, that they are identical and that they are shaped in some way. Feed them some information such as the size, weight and material. Once you have a number of possibilities, look at the image of a long jumper on the vase in For the classroom. Ask the students to try to spot these objects in the painting and to comment on how the painting helps us understand the object and vice versa.
Explore the long jumper painting further. Ask the students whether the jumper is going to win the competition – draw their attention to the measuring markers. Then ask them who the other men are and identify the javelin thrower and the trainer. Doing this helps them build up a visual vocabulary which they can then use to look at other evidence – test this out with the painting of the pentathletes in For the classroom and then introduce the discus-thrower in that scene.
Explore the scenes in A bigger picture, building up students’ familiarity with the different events. Ask them to make a list of all the ancient Greek events they have seen so far. Then use the list of modern events in For the classroom and identify which events are still included.
While it is likely that Olympia and the Olympics will form the core of your work, it is important to remind students that there were other festivals and that athletics were a feature of life in all Greek cities. Use the matching game in For the classroom to find out about the Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian and Panathenaic games. Do some map work to identify the locations of these games and of the Olympics – note that these do not take place near Mt Olympos.
Go through the day-by-day guide to the ancient Olympic Games in For the classroom. Use an internet search to find a suitable ground plan of ancient Olympia and the photos of the site in For the classroom: match the modern photos to the plan. Find out more about what the different buildings were for. Explain that large athletics festivals were held in honour of the gods and discuss which the students think was the most important building on the site. Use this work and the study of the events to make a collaborative presentation or display of what the students have learned.
Look at the short biographies of famous ancient athletes in For the classroom. Why has each of them been remembered? Which modern sportspeople do the students think will be remembered in two thousand years? Which of the ancient athletes do the students think will still be remembered then?
How were the ancient games different from the modern? Find out more about the prizes that athletes received, then use this and the students’ other research to list the similarities and differences. Investigate the first modern Olympics using the website in For the classroom and compare again. Why do the students think the idea of the Olympics has lasted? Do they think this is a good thing?
Does beautiful mean good, and good beautiful? Discuss the Greek idea of a link between the virtuous and the beautiful. Do the students agree that the most beautiful are the most good? Which do they think is the most important? Do they agree at all with the idea that one should foster physical well-being and intelligence and good character? If one should foster the physical, are competitive sports the best way of doing so?