Leonardo Da Vinci Unit: Artist or Scientist?



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During my student teaching elementary placement, I designed and taught a 5 lesson Unit on Leonardo Da Vinci to 5th Grade students (whom I saw once a week). This lesson was unique because it encouraged students to bridge the gap between science and art. I am a firm believer in transitioning STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) into STEAM (Addition of ART) and this lesson proves just how valuable this evolution is.

The Unit was designed to teach students about Leonardo Da Vinci, a famous artist AND scientist.

If you would like to see the Unit with full lesson plans, power-points, and handouts, click here



Lesson One: Intro To Leonardo

An art history introduction to Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance.  Students followed along and filled out a handout at the end of class. They practiced writing backwards just like Leonardo would in his sketchbook.

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Lesson 2: Observational Bird Sketching

After reminding the students how Leonardo would sketch in his sketchbook, we talked about techniques of sketching and observing. We brainstormed about reasons why Leonardo would sketch certain objects – for example: birds. Then each group had their own “bird” for the day to create an observational sketch with. The taxidermy birds were loaned from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. The students LOVED being able to look at the real bird and draw from it instead of just a picture. Students were able to appreciate the importance of observation and scientific sketching. 

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Lesson 3: Clay Birds

Leonardo would often use his sketches to aide him in creating clay sculptures- although he wasn’t known for working in this medium. To mimic Leonardo, students created their own clay bird with textural designs similar to their sketch. All birds had the basic body shape because of instruction but they could add bigger beaks, a tuft of hair, or longer tails to their liking. The students only had one class period to finish the clay construction of their bird so time was short. I was amazed with what they came up with in only 35 minutes. 

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Lesson 4: Inventions

Leonardo is most scientifically known for his invention designs. Although most of his inventions were only sketches, they were so detailed that one could build off of his sketches. Students used their sketches, observations, and knowledge of birds to dream up a new invention dealing with flight. They could work in groups or by themselves. Each table was given a mystery bin full of various materials that they could use.

Inspiration can be found in a pile of junk. Sometimes, you can put it together with a good imagination and invent something.     -Thomas Edison 

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Lesson 5: Glazing the Clay Bird and Reflections

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