The Never-ending Search for the Perfect Body (LS-IT-528)

This cross-curricular learning scenario introduced students to the concept of an idealised body in the past (ancient Greek and Roman societies) and in modern times through the popular Victorian showman Eugen Sandow (1867-1925), a fin de siècle German bodybuilder obsessed with physical development after seeing the statues and pictures of classical heroes and gladiators in the European art galleries. The marble artworks that inspired Sandow to develop his musculature to pre-determined dimensions, get students acquainted with “the Grecian Ideal” as a formula for the perfect physique according to exact proportions.

Aims of the Learning Scenario

This learning scenario was designed to help students think critically about the myths and stereotypes that stemmed from the search for the body‘s perfection throughout the centuries and encourage them to reflect on the popularity of physical culture in terms of its wider social implications. The focus of the LS’ activities was on communication and fluency in English (target language for Intermediate + level students in upper secondary schools): discussion, conversation, and writing tasks (written reports) were embedded to get pupils thinking and talking about the body conceptualization in History, Art and Sport.

Cross-curricular Perspective

The topic “Idealized body” was addressed in a cross-curricular perspective, in order to be successfully implemented in civic education classes, encompassing subjects such as English as a second language (some lessons, according to the CLIL approach, were held in L2), History (Ancient Greek and Roman societies) and PE (physical culture and the earliest days of the fitness movement). The use of statistical information for the PE activity (with the assignment to convert gathered data in tables and graphs) and the reference to the mathematical proportions for the parts of the human body in Polyclitus Canon, made it possible to implement this LS also in Math class. Sculptures from ancient Greece and Rome reveal that classical artists closely observed the human body, so the analysis of statues’ body parts can be easily integrated into a Science lesson on human anatomy. Referring to the terms of body parts in Latin and Ancient Greek original languages, would be useful for enhancing students’ competencies in these languages that are included in the national curriculum of Italian classical high schools. Finally, research in the Europeana collection on  “La culture Physique”, a rare French language bodybuilding magazine, makes this LS adaptable to French as a second language lessons. 

Obtained Results

The LS included digital creation tasks and follow-up research activities that boosted students’ aptitude to carry out online research checking and evaluating the resources’ credibility and accuracy and extracting information to create informative text.

Students’ final report

They also enhanced their ability to communicate their findings visually through presentations and infographics and to extract information from a range of sources expressing written and oral opinions around that information.

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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