In eight months, Leonardo Da Vinci visited summer camps, school classrooms, and library programs in West Baton Rouge. He also participated in a Maker Faire held by the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, a STEM Fair hosted by Holy Family School, and a program presented at the Louisiana Library Association Conference.
Five hundred years after his death, all ages of West Baton Rouge residents, have visited Leonardo. They’ve experienced his mind set through hands-on activities, presentations, and exhibits that explored his art techniques, engineering feats, and incredible inventive mind.
“Visits with Leonardo,” by the WBRPL was made possible by a $500 mini grant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. The project has introduced the father of the scientific method to more than 1400 youth and 570 adults through fifty-six events hosted by the West Baton Rouge Parish Library.
Walter Isaacson’s captivating biography of Leonardo Da Vinci served as the inspiration for “Visits with Leonardo." After reading the book, youth services librarian, Judy Boyce set out to create a program of activities to introduce children to the amazing Leonardo through scientific explorations. She was intrigued with how he used explorations in art, scientific studies, inventions, and engineering. Her partner in the project design was artist and art educator, Maria Bridevaux.
Boyce and Bridevaux designed the program as a self-guided interactive exhibit. It was also a facilitator lead program with six modules that could be modified to appropriately fit different audiences and settings.
The modules provided students opportunities to explore bridge building, catapult and parachute designs, mirror writing, and human body proportions and shadows in creating realistic drawings. The exhibit included copies of Leonardo’s three most famous paintings and sketches of some of his architectural designs, military weapons, and anatomical studies. It also included models of military vehicles he envisioned, a camera obscura, and catapults.
Designing “Visits with Leonardo” was a challenge. Boyce and Bridevaux wanted to create a program with solid educational content that would stimulate high student interest and provide opportunities for experimentation and problem solving. They also wanted students to have fun exploring a few things that fascinated Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Visits with Leonardo” was welcomed by teachers as an important and effective component of the library’s school outreach service. For Boyce, “Seeing students take on Leonardo’s mind set as they explored and had fun contemplating a few of his ideas was beyond wonderful.”