When organizing the Renaissance Faire held last week at Lake Oswego Junior High School, seventh-grade teacher Camille Selby inspired two student teams to learn more about Leonardo DaVinci.
Selby noted that DaVinci was influential in both art and science during the Renaissance period.
"He was the Renaissance Man," said Selby, who teaches social studies and language arts.
The Renaissance was a period of time bursting with art and learning that ran from the 14th century to 17th century and marked the transition from Medieval to modern times. And the man famous for painting the "Mona Lisa" stood at the center of it, living from 1452-1519 and pioneering inventions so forward-thinking that civilization lacked the tools to create them until hundreds of years later.
Each of the student groups studied their subject and chose a hands-on activity during the annual LOJ Ren Faire. In DaVinci's honor, seventh-graders Lincoln Buckner and Kyle Zhang tackled the considerable scientific portion of the life of the creator of the Vitruvian Man (the drawing of the guy standing in a circle representing "ideal" proportions); they set up a station where students could assemble a complicated ballpoint pen, because DaVinci liked to fix things.
That's not what made him such a famous inventor, though, Lincoln explained.
DaVinci thought up a rudimentary helicopter, a submarine-like ship, a bulbous tank (based on a tortoise shell) and a glider before pretty much anyone else. His models and drawings of these early ideas show the vision of a time traveler. Lincoln added that he learned a lot from studying this multi-faceted man and other people who lived at the same time and before.
"It was a good experience to learn how ... hard it was to live back then until the Renaissance came along," he said.
Kyle mentioned people's attitudes in Medieval times.
"I think they only cared about surviving," he said. "They didn't care about creating technology."
Of course, DaVinci wasn't the only big name of the Renaissance era. There were great artists, such as Tiziano Vecelli, an Italian painter known in English as Titian. Seventh-grader Kiera Monahan studied him for the Ren Faire. She said he specialized in portraits and was known for his liberal use of color and delicate brush strokes. Her hands-on activity was for students to copy those brush strokes.
Kiera said Titian's work changed, though, when he experienced a tragedy. "When his wife died, his colors got darker," she said.
Selby summarized that lesson as an example of how life can affect a person's work. She said hands-on experiences such as the Ren Faire, where students make choices about their own project, are important for students who will soon enter high school.
"Having some choices and the experiential learning are what gives (a lesson) more meaning now and into the future," Selby said.