Is there a relationship between sport and education? How is it constructed, and what benefits can it bring? The Transforma (“Transform”) project of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games aims to show that the relationship is built on solid foundations, and is capable of opening up a range of learning opportunities that go beyond sport, raising awareness and expanding the knowledge of students and teachers – often in an unexpected way.
Transforma began in 2013, three years before Rio de Janeiro became the first South American city to host the Olympics. It began with a pilot project involving approximately 15 schools in Rio, and today includes around 10,000 learning institutions throughout Brazil. To begin with schools sent only Physical Education teachers when invited to take part in the pilot project. But the program always had ambitions to go beyond physical activity.
“The program aims to develop socio-emotional skills, so teachers from any subject can take part. It’s not a sporting program. It applies the Olympic imagination to any learning theme,” Vanderson Berbat, Education director of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016, explained in an interview with Porvir.
He defines Transforma as an open learning tool, to be used as each school sees fit. To join, schools simply need to visit the project website, which provides didactic materials, videos and tutorials.
Olympic and Paralympic values
A major focus of the program is to help students absorb Olympic and Paralympic values. For Berbat, Olympic values include respect, excellence and friendship, while Paralympic values include equality, inspiration, determination and courage. He explains how these were inserted into the school environment by Transforma.
“These values need to undergo a pedagogical translation before they can be inserted into schools, so that they can achieve greater adherence among a range of audiences. To achieve this, five educational values were created: balance between body, will and mind; the joy of effort; the pursuit of excellence; fair play and respect for others”.
Physical Education teacher Fábio Dionízio, from the SESI school in Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro, sees a parallel between Olympic values and the daily life of his students. “The students reflect on behavior and relationships inside and outside school, which contribute to the campaign against bullying.”
Natã da Rocha, a ninth grade student at SESI, has a clear understanding of such concepts. “The values we study show that we should respect those around us in all our decisions, play fair, never disrespect our colleagues, and always seek to understand the motive and the objective behind the game or championship. And we should always remember that we can win one day and lose the next”.
Berbat has a number of suggestions to help schools work with the values in the classroom. “Creative competitions, case studies and real examples of athletes and former athletes. We should aim to improve the atmosphere in the school, increase attendance, prevent bullying, value diversity, raise self-esteem and develop the joy of effort in students”.
The Committee’s Education director recommends that every activity ends with a discussion that allows everyone to think. “Students should be asked to reflect on what has been discussed or experienced, to imagine what they would do in the same situations and to share their impressions. Teachers, who should be attentive to the feedback of their students, should highlight the values as they emerge”.
Transforma encourages schools to take students out of their traditional role as receivers of information and to act as what the program describes as Young Agents: becoming multipliers of the knowledge they have acquired and spreading it among their classmates. This further strengthens Olympic and Paralympic values among students, as Lucia Helena de Sousa, principal of the Tenente General Napion Municipal School in Rio de Janeiro, explained.
“We’ve rehabilitated undisciplined students, who were negative leaders and always in trouble, and transformed them into Young Agents, who lead and motivate through good ideas and examples,” she says.
According to Lucia, directing students with an aptitude for leadership towards roles as positive influencers has an impact not just on behavior, but also on school reports, through improved grades, and even in class participation and attendance in school reading rooms.
Experimentation, practice and changing roles
Physical Education teachers, meanwhile, were taken out of their traditional recreational position and encouraged to take a more central role by innovating and introducing new sports to students during their classes. And improvisation and creativity have combined well together, as teacher Raquel Lopes Augusto, of SESI Jacarepaguá explains. “In PE classes we use alternative or recyclable materials for learning, such as newspapers, PET bottles, cardboard, brush shafts, sand, stockings, bamboo and PVC pipes”.
The Biella Luiz Souza Municipal School in, Jundiaí, São Paulo, adopted the same initiative. “Students and teachers were challenged to produce materials for classes and the results were great,” say Valter de Almeida and Moizes Neto, sports and physical education teachers.
Besides learning new sports, students have been encouraged to experience Paralympic sports. SESI organized volleyball games with the students sitting, the way Paralympic athletes do. Sixth grade SESI student Monintthelly Forte enjoyed the experiment, and felt that the experience helped to increase empathy. “It’s always good to be with friends in a group, as a team, and to put ourselves in the place of a person who cannot walk”.
Based on intense experimentation, Transforma also challenges school coordinators to integrate the Olympic themes into all subjects taught. Therefore, teachers are encouraged to vary the examples they give in the classroom, using sports in the context of subject materials. According to Julio Natalense, leader of Technology and Sustainability at Dow – one of the sponsors of the Olympic Games – presenting the theme of sports to students in a more practical manner arouses their curiosity, as it takes them out of their routine. Sporting knowledge can be associated with traditional subjects such as physics, chemistry or mathematics.
It is possible, for example, to study how to build a stadium and the need to use waterproofing materials in the process; how using certain materials in athletes’ uniforms can help to avoid extreme humidity; what happens to the body during doping – an exercise that can also be used to reinforce values; concepts of physics and statistics related to football and basketball, and so on.
Located on the outskirts of São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, the Professor Suzete Aparecida de Campos Municipal School found itself switching off its Internet connection when Fernanda Borges – a teacher specializing in technology education – decided to encourage her students to use LEGO bricks to develop projects related to the Olympics.
“How could they immerse themselves in the Olympics using a technological tool? That was how the idea was born,” she says. “I started the “Olympics Project” with 2nd grade students, offering them material on the subject with videos and reflections. After this step, each group chose an Olympic sport, and built LEGO installations to simulate their chosen sport. The project will culminate in a themed classroom in which people from the community can look at and experiment with the constructions and learn a little more about the work involved”.
Glória Luna, a math teacher at the SESI school in Jacarepaguá, has also related sports to the material that she teaches. She has introduced various aspects related to the Olympics – the different sports, the Brazilian athletes who will represent the country, the facilities built for the event, the sights of the city of Rio de Janeiro, the estimated costs for the construction of Olympic venues and other issues, and used charts and graphs to record everything.
“We create images related to the Olympics and record them on graph paper in a symmetrical manner. We apply knowledge about addition and subtraction of positive and negative numbers to record the scores and standings of the Games. With these activities, we participate more actively in the theme,” says the teacher.
*Translated by James Young.