Thinking Like Leonardo

In the “Should it be STEM or STEAM” debate, no one is a better poster child of how Science and Art complement each other than Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s journals are filled with close observations of nature and the human body, as well as engineering drawings and notes detailing inventions, such as the precursors to the submarine, tank, and machines of the air.

Our students will be exploring how to think like the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in preparation for a writing workshop with Diane Stanley, author of the biographies Leonardo and Michelangelo. Following are a few curricular collaborations that highlight the genius of two Renaissance thinkers and creators, Leonardo and Michelangelo.

Leonardo’s Journals
Librarian Eve Zehavi will guide fourth graders as they discuss quotes from Leonardo’s journals and look closely at his sketches to determine what Leonardo emphasized about the act of thinking and creating.

How do you think like Leonardo?
How do you see like Leonardo?
How do you problem solve like Leonardo?

These are just some of the questions fourth graders will ponder as they reflect on quotes and sketches. Selecting one of Leonardo’s quotes and relating it to journal sketches, students will write a reflective paragraph using the model of “A Quote Sandwich:”

Top Bun of “Quote” Sandwich
(1) introduce the speaker and the quote

The “Meat”
(2) state the quote

Bottom Bun
(3) summarize the quote in your own words and connect to meaning of the quote based on sketches and designs in Leonardo’s journals.

Here is a reflective paragraph example that will be shared with students. Color coding shows parts of the “Quote Sandwich” and an image from Leonardo’s journal is selected to match the quote:

Painting Competition:
Leonardo and Michelangelo’s Battle Scenes

Our sixth graders have been studying the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and have been reading about the ancient artists and engineers who created them. One ancient artist, Scopas, created a famous scene of Amazons battling Greek soldiers, which appears on columns of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.  A history article described Scopas as a “Michelangelo of the Renaissance.”   Discovering this comparison became the impetus to have students compare and contrast this Greek artist’s battle scene with famous battle scenes by Leonardo and Michelangelo.

In one of the most famous painting competitions of the Renaissance, Leonardo and Michelangelo were each challenged to paint a battle scene glorifying the history of Florence. The paintings were to be on opposite walls of the same room of a Florentine republic council chamber. Leonardo was an older, established artist, and Michelangelo was a young, 25-year-old talented sculptor; both artists disliked each other and were very disparaging of each other’s artwork (Isaacson 367).  Author Diane Stanley depicts this painting battle in her two books Leonardo and Michelangelo, and this article from The Guardian will also be shared with our sixth graders.

I collaborated with the history and ELA teachers to develop primary source images and articles so that students can analyze these artworks to discuss comparisons. The history teacher, Cori Beach, will have students connect what they observed earlier in Egyptian art of a Kushite and Nubian battle scenes to the more realistic portrayal of soldiers in battle by the Greek artist Scopas. Donna Baughman, ELA teacher, will guide students to look closely at the artworks and to write in their journals brainstormed action verbs that help describe these battle scenes, such as the following:


Greek figures in the Scopas battle scene “lunging,” “stumbling,”


Expressive face of soldier by Leonardo described as “glaring” and “screaming”


Figures in the Michelangelo battle scene “twisting,” “arms thrusting”

Students will also make a list of transition words and bring these brainstorming journals with them to the writing workshop. Using this structure (adapted from Owl Writing Lab), students will write a comparison/contrast essay during the Writing Workshop with author Diane Stanley:

  • First: discuss how the Scopas battle scene is similar to either Leonardo’s or Michelangelo’s battle scene (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Second: discuss how the Scopas and Renaissance battle scenes are different (and use specific examples and descriptive words).
  • Third: discuss characteristics of Scopas’ style (Hellenistic art) and evolving characteristics in Michelangelo’s or Leonardo’s art style (Renaissance, Humanistic art).

Looking Closely
We are excited to see how our fourth and sixth graders look closely at primary source images and quotes and connect to “Thinking Like Leonardo” and “Thinking Like Michelangelo” in this Writing Workshop. See below for further Leonardo resources to explore:

Treatise on Painting
(Leonardo’s notes on painting assembled and copied by his assistant, Francesco Melzi, and printed in 1651–Leonardo died in 1519)
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46915/46915-h/46915-h.htm

Math and Science Activities for Leonardo
http://www.loc.gov/loc/kidslc//LGpdfs/leo-teacher.pdf

Math Forum: Leonardo da Vinci Math Activity
http://mathforum.org/alejandre/frisbie/math/leonardo.html

Da Vinci: The Genius
(Museum of Science, Boston)
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/

Inventions Activity Quiz
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/activities/inventions-quiz

Mirror Writing (Writing Backwards)
https://www.mos.org/leonardo/activities/mirror-writing

Books:
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (for adult readers)
Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley
Michelangelo by Diane Stanley

Article:
“And the Winner Is…” by Jonathan Jones (discusses the
painting contest between Leonardo and Michangelo)
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2002/oct/22/artsfeatures.highereducation

Bibliography for Images:
Hamburger Low Polygon. Clip Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/186_1628980/1/186_1628980/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Botanical table by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), drawing 237. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/126_142634/1/126_142634/cite. Accessed 5 Jan 2018.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus: The Amazon Frieze. British Museum.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=540053001&objectId=460564&partId=1
Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Leonardo, Heads of Warriors, Study. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/109_223586/1/109_223586/cite. Accessed 27 Dec 2017.

Michelangelo. Battle of Cascina. 1504. Fordham Art History.
Fordham University. https://michelangelo.ace.fordham.edu/items/show/12
Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

Leonardo da Vinci. c. 1514. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 31 Aug 2017.  quest.eb.com/search/140_1809909/1/140_1809909/cite. Accessed 7 Dec 2017.

Designing, Tinkering, Succeeding and Failing in the Upper School Maker Space

The very first post that I wrote for Independent Ideas was entitled Staging My Own Intervention and dealt with my overwhelming periodical “situation” (read 50+ years of journals, magazines, and a microfiche collection that would knock your socks off), stored in the basement of my library. Two rooms of it. This is what it looked like:

Bound versions of Time and Life were used occasionally, but believe it or not, ancient issues of Sky and Telescope, the New York Review of Books, and Art News simply wasn’t. The dust was thick. The lighting was weird. The basement was a creepy no man’s land and no one, including me, wanted to spend any more time in that room than was absolutely necessary. I had nothing to lose. I decided to clear the room, preserve the treasures, and to create the school’s first Maker Space.

It took me approximately 2 years to clear the room. I invited departments in to see what magazines they would like for me to keep. I flagged them and started clearing. See those 5 recycling bins? It took about 15 minutes to fill them, 3-4 days to get our super awesome (super busy) housekeeping crew to get them out to the recycling station outside and back again. It was a seriously heavy, dirty, time consuming job. In the meantime, I began lobbying for an assistant with experience in a Maker Space. Enter Caroline, my tech-savvy savior who had worked hard to start a Maker Space with one small empty room, zero budget, and a donated 3D printer. Here’s  a short video about Project e-NABLE she worked on, working with U Albany students to print and assemble 3D printed hands for children in need. I had someone to partner with to continue clearing the room! Not only that, but I had a crafty, jewelry making, sewing, Pinterest rocking, tech savvy partner in crime to help brainstorm supplies, projects, and potential curricular tie-ins. This was a huge leap in the right direction.

In all honesty, I’ve visited a fair number of Maker Spaces now, particularly during AISL annual conference school visits. The concept isn’t a new one. I have seen some intriguing things going on out there–and I have taken hundreds of pictures (Dallas and Tampa librarians, I’m talking to you!). What I haven’t seen in action, though, is an upper school maker space. We had a ton of questions. There was the proverbial “if we build it, will they come?” How can we fit making into an already tight daily schedule? Will teachers shift their pedagogy to implement more project based learning, utilizing the space? Could this be an after school space where students can just come play? Will it be high tech or low tech? How are we going to fund it?! We have no budget for it(!). Does an adult need to be in the space at all times? What if they aren’t responsible about cleaning up after themselves? Or worse, what if someone gets hurt?

We decided to jump in and figure it out as we went (as we go?? We’re still figuring it out…).

Once we got the magazines out, we asked facilities to remove the microfiche reader, old desk, fax machine, and audio cassette cabinets. (Don’t laugh.) We asked them to dismantle most of the shelving and clear out the room. I say most because we left shelving all along the left side of the room to hold supplies and/or for students to leave projects that they are working on in the space, but out of the way. We shifted the treasured magazines into the second room and asked that the center aisle be cleared of shelving in that room as well, so that we can put tables and banker’s lamps in there.

Our director of facilities offered us two cabinets that were being removed from a science classroom, adding casters so that they became a mobile counter top/work space with drawers and cabinets below for storage.

We emptied the microfiche cabinets and gathered donated supplies from our former engineering instructor, now full time Academic Dean, who no longer needed her massive supply of crafting supplies, design thinking supplies (post-its, Sharpies), etc. We labeled the microfiche cabinets using a fun, clean architecture font and loaded them with supplies.

We used a tech grant provided by our public schools to purchase hardware. Here’s what we bought:

  • a new 3D printer manufactured locally and serviced locally (they break more than we would like them to so this was important to us);
  • a Precision CNC Mill (think subtractive engineering rather than additive, like the 3D printer–this thing can carve anything softer than steel. We’re going to use scrap wooden blocks to start with, but dream of carving stone, soap, even chocolate sometime in the future!
  • a Cricut machine for paper cutting (or fabric, foam, felt, etc.)

We added these things to the two original Makerbot printers the school already owned as well as discarded desktop computers so that each piece of equipment could have the necessary software already downloaded.

We invited student volunteers to help us paint/organize/clean/stock the space and a group of loyal freshmen came every week! They used the Cricut to cut out gears to hang from the ceiling and they painted the very 70’s harvest gold, orange, and lime green drawers in the room. They went with a purple for the door. Facilities donated some peg boards and two inexpensive composite boards for us to cover and use as cork boards in the space.

We bought a button maker and at a holiday craft fair, charged students $2 to create buttons (awesome holiday gifts!) using old book pages, decorating images of Emma Willard, our founder, or printing and decorating favorite quotes of their own. We’re using proceeds to buy more supplies for the space.

We’ve created a “Pillar of Fails” to celebrate growth mindset in the space. We talk about encouraging students to take risks and to learn/grow through their failures, but rarely give them a low stakes space for them to do so. The Maker Space is just the space.

We are still putting the finishing touches on the space, but so far have hosted two grand openings: one for faculty/staff (with muffins, coffee, and a tour) and one for students (with cookies, soft drinks, and a design challenge–cotton ball catapults to knock over a stack of dixie cups). The unveiling for parents will take place the week before Valentine’s day. We’re thinking of providing 3D printed heart shaped EW pendants to attach to bookmarks or to bracelets, if jewelry is more their thing.

If we build it, will they come? So far, the answer is a resounding YES.

The Sophomore class used the Cricut machine to cut puzzle pieces and to glue, glitter, and assemble ornaments for their themed holiday tree on campus. On our first day back from break, biology classes were in the space making 3D models of plant and animal cells. They will be back in a few weeks to create models of the digestive system, utilizing cardboard tubes, bags, and such. Juniors are working on prom posters and our student leaders are creating bulletin board materials down in the space. A houseparent has asked us to brainstorm a re-purposed art project, visiting Goodwill to gather materials to transform in the Maker Space. Our STEAM coordinator has asked us to team teach a unit on soft circuit jewelry making. Those weeks after APs are over? We’ve got them covered!

At this point, the room is open. Sharp tools are locked up and available upon (supervised) request. Our rules are pretty simple: unplug and clean up after yourselves. Let us know if we need to get more of a certain supply. The room’s open when the library is.

This year, we are using the tech grant to purchase the following materials:

Gemma Starter Pack (to make wearable electronics)
Adafruit Beginner LED Sewing Kit
3doodle create pens for rapid prototyping (requested by a geometry teacher)
Littlebits Gizmo/Gadget kit and STEAM student kit) better for older students.

If you’re interested, here are some images I’ve taken of the space:

Are you an Upper School librarian running or contemplating a Maker Space in your library? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below!

 

 

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