Science is defined as “the systematic study of the physical and natural world’s structure and behavior through observation and experimentation.” In Leonardo da Vinci’s work, we find the essence of that definition. For more than 40 years, Leonardo da Vinci gathered his observations and ideas in his now-famous Notebooks. In those notebooks, we can observe Leonardo’s systematic exploration of the world, its patterns, and the constant search for interconnectivity among the world’s phenomena. These notebooks include over 100,000 drawings and more than 6,000 pages of notations. Without a doubt, observation skills were at the core of his scientific exploration.
Just like a modern scientist today, Leonardo used systematic observations, logical reasoning, experimentation, and mathematical concepts to find answers to satisfy his curiosity. As a teacher, I found inspiration in Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy to infuse a passion for observation and questioning in my students. I did this as the first step to engage learners with science education, but also to facilitate the learning of any other subject and show the interconnectivity among all areas of knowledge. I would show my students pages of Leonardo’s notebooks and how on those pages, the great genius of the Renaissance, through the use of simple sketching techniques and recording his ideas, was able to open the doors to a whole world of inspiration. I genuinely believe that those students that create and maintain an interactive notebook in the style of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks have a powerful tool that can be used to make connections and expand their understanding of the world around them. It offers a space where students layout the product of their perceptions in order to make meaning of them, apply their new ideas, and share them with their peers, parents, and teachers.
Teachers who promote Leonardo da Vinci’s interactive science notebooks in their classrooms will foster a higher order of thinking and increase comprehension and retention in their students. Sketching, labeling and coloring as forms of note-taking have a radical impact on creative problem solving and deep information processing. These types of notebooks not only become enabling tools that create windows to the world and promote creativity, but they are also an excellent instrument for tracking and assessing students’ learning.
Research clearly shows that using notebooking techniques in the classroom increases students’ success. I know from experience that using interactive notebooks helps students develop, practice, and improve their scientific understanding. Students learn to monitor and take control of their own learning. Plus, the use of notebooks engages students in real science processes and techniques. They have the opportunity to record data and information following the steps of the scientific method while using sketching as a form of note-taking.
Science notebooks help students with reading, writing, math, and visual communications skills that are fundamental in the 21st-century workplace. But this is not only useful in science. Using interactive notebooks inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks helps students develop crucial visual literacy skills while increasing understanding and retention in any subject. They facilitate learner-centered activities that dynamically involve students in a constant reflection on what is being learned and how and why it is being learned. Additionally, these notebooks enable communication with parents and can be used as a demonstration of learning. Best of all, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, these notebooks help developing a Complete Mind, which, according to Leonardo, could be achieved by following these steps:
- Study the science of art
- Study the art of science
- Develop your senses (especially learn how to see)
- Realize that everything connects to everything else
In 2014 I published and children’s book titled Leonardo da Vinci – The Art of Science. This book helps us show young readers how they can find inspiration in Leonardo’s legacy to create and maintain their own interactive notebooks. I have recently updated the book and the resources offered for the classroom. The Spanish version is ready for you to order now. (the English version is coming out soon)
Although the text has been written for students at 5th or 6th-grade levels, this book’s main objective is to provide educators and parents with a tool to awaken their children’s curiosity and desire for scientific and artistic exploration. We offer free printable resources and book readings via Zoom (for school groups) to help inspire students with Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy.
I would love to have the opportunity to work with you and your students. Meanwhile, here is a video that talks about Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.