Teachers to combine art, sports in school competition / Arts Olympiad meant to celebrate spirit of the games

Annette Baird, Houston Chronicle

Think Olympics. Think art. Combine the two, and there’s well, paintball shot put, paint dot fencing, wheelchair wheel print-dash, scooter board finger-paint luge and dipped arrow archery.

These are just some of the events art teacher David Butler and his wife Jody, a life skills teacher, have designed for special needs students in the Spring Branch school district to compete in their upcoming Arts Olympiad.

“It’s going to be wild,” said David Butler, who teaches at Spring Branch Middle School. “All of it has never been done before.”

And it’s going to be messy.

Athletes will fence by dipping sticks in paint to strike a canvas. Archery involves dipping foam arrows in paint to shoot at a canvas, while swimming involves flippers and a scooter board to leave tracks on canvas.

The resulting art work will be exhibited later.

The Butlers expect to host about 50 middle and elementary athletes in this first-of-its-kind Olympiad, inspired by their trip last year to Italy and Greece to study ancient sculpture and the modern Olympic athlete.

Helping them are teachers, students, artists and other volunteers who will work with the athletes.

The event, featuring everything Olympic from torch and flags to medals and closing ceremonies, is from 6:30-8 p.m. today at Spring Branch Middle, 1000 Piney Point.

David and Jody visited 28 art museums, met with archeologists, attended an athletics meet and watched athletes train during their visit, which was funded by a grant they won through the Fund For Teachers organization.

With David’s background in art and athletics, he coaches pole vaulting at Rice University, and Jody’s in-life skills, the two wanted to combine their loves of art, sport, children and the Olympics.

“I thought it would be neat to do something with life skills students,” David Butler said.

“This is the perfect culmination of the experience we had, and it gives children, athletes and parents a way to celebrate the Olympic spirit.”

Jody Butler said in brainstorming the events, they found nothing was off limits.

“We’ve found there isn’t anything these kids can’t do if you adapt and modify,” she said.

Pippa Day, whose 15 year-old daughter Laura Lodge has cerebral palsy, thinks the Olympiad is a fantastic and innovative concept.

She said Laura, who attends Spring Branch Middle School, is “very excited about getting involved.”

“Laura’s passion is art and sports, and combining the two together is awesome,” Day said