Implementation of ‘Greek Canon’ (SOI-EU-73)

My name is Nathalie Chessé-Chesnot, I teach Litterature and French Language at the European Schools, in Brussels. I have implemented the Greek Canon learning scenario by Natasa Tram. I have done it with the seventh graders (13 years old) during my literature lesson. This lesson is about art history. I don’t teach this subject, but it was easy to adapt it to my literature course.

General presentation

Objectives of the lesson

  1. Familiarise students with the use of Europeana.
  2. Show them through art history that the perception of beauty is eminently subjective.
  3. Make them understand how art, literature, sculpture, painting is a questioning of the world, how it reflects the ideals of a time.

Why this choice?

It was an opportunity to show the students the links between literature, art and philosophy.

The discovery of Greek canons also interested me because, at this age, students see their bodies transform and are very concerned about their physical appearance.

More particularly, I wanted to illustrate the literature course on love (The beauty and the beast by Leprince de Beaumont, and Riquet with tussock by Charles Perrault, with a reflection on the subjective representation of beauty…).

So, I had to start with the first definition of beauty, that of Greek sculpture.

What was studied before this course?

Before the implementation of this course, we worked on the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who wanted to create with his statue a perfect beauty, inaccessible ideal to simple mortals. It was the opportunity to present Europeana to the students. We worked from a sculpted representation of the myth exhibited at the Louvres: ‘Pygmalion au pied de sa statue qui s’anime, dit aussi Pygmalion et Galatée’.


Activity 1 – 45 minutes

For the first lesson, I presented Europeana portal and explained how to search for information; then I showed different works of art from the Greek and Roman period. I asked the students what the common points were, and if they thought beauty could be represented in this way today. In the end, I did the same as Natasa: measuring the proportions one’s own body.

For the next lesson, I gave different topics for presentations. Students had to work on the proportions in the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods of Greek art. I gave them the worksheet made by Natasa, so that they can analyse the different sculptures. On our online platform (O365 Teams), I gave them the links for their researches.

Activity 2 – 30 minutes

Group 1 /2 /3 made their presentation on the Greek beauty canons with male sculpture and then on the analysis of the works sought on Europeana. They were asked to compare the different representation of male characters and his evolution.

Activity 3 – 30 minutes

Group 2 made their presentation on the Greek beauty canons with female sculpture. They were asked to compare the different representation of female characters and his evolution.

Activity 4 – 30 minutes

Together we synthesised all these presentations. As Natasa, I showed on Teams different sentences about Greek canon on the smartboard, and I used a True/False online quiz.

Activity 5 – 45 minutes

The last lesson was devoted to an assessment: a quiz distributed online.


What worked well

Students liked doing research on Europeana and even tried to find resources different from those I had indicated to them.

What didn’t work

The activity of taking each other’s measurements was not conclusive. I had to stop it because I saw that for some, it was an opportunity for mockery!

Also, I faced one obstacle when implementing the learning scenario: I couldn’t go to the Kahoot site and had to create my questionnaires. I believe it is easier to propose annexes that colleagues can easily copy by printing them as I did for Natasa first annexe.

Lesson proposed after this implementation on the beauty criteria of Greek art

The influence of Greek art on the perception of beauty in the Renaissance through the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli.  These painters sought to express a universal beauty, witnessing the eternal order of the cosmos, hence the desire for harmony in proportion (the Vitruvian man, the golden number or the divine proportion).  In his theories, Vinci often refers to mathematics as “the absolute paradigm of knowledge”. Almost all his remarks are presented as theorems, demonstrations of experiments supported by sketches. The pupils could have to find some paintings of these artists on Europeana.

Conclusion & teacher’s remarks

I consider that the objectives were achieved. The students were very interested and involved in this course. The questioning on the quest for perfection led to a reflection on the excesses of cosmetic surgery. One student asked the ethics teacher to do a presentation on this topic, and another asked to work on anorexia. I suggested to them another work about Greek mythology:  the myth of eternal youth with Hebe, and the Ambrosia.

This course was, therefore, an opportunity to collaborate with a colleague! Finally, for these presentations, students found by their resources on Europeana, which shows that the use of this site will now be a useful tool for them.

File with annexes

Did you find this story of implementation interesting? Why don’t you read about the related learning scenario?

Greek Canon created by Nataša Tram

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The featured image used to illustrate this article belongs to the public domain.

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