The ultimate ‘Learner and Doer’, Leonardo Da Vinci

I have been reading some thought provoking research on ‘How best students learn?’ Of all such readings the one that I keep going back to is; How to think and see the world like Leonardo Da Vinci?¹

The author, Thomas Oppong, applauds the ability of Da Vinci to intersect the arts, science, engineering and other disciplines. This interdisciplinary thinking was very advanced for its time and some credit Da Vinci as the first to think in this way. Numerous scholars define Da Vinci as the ‘ultimate Doer and Learner.’ The author Michael J Gelb², identifies 7 Davincian Principles for learning;

  1. Curiosity- an insatiable appetite to question.
  2. Demonstration- to test knowledge and learn from experience.
  3. Sensation- to use our senses especially sight to live in the moment.
  4. Sfumato- to allow for ambiguity and not search for one correct answer.
  5. Art/Science- to achieve balance and view the world with both creativity and logic.
  6. Corporalita- fitness of both the mind and body
  7. Connection- an appreciation of the connectedness of all things.

Many if not all of these principles are currently embedded in our school’s curriculum.

The experiential and cocurricular programs that we offer our students facilitate this view of the world. There could be no truer example of this as demonstrated in the learning of the Year 8 and Year 9 students on camp recently. While the Year 8’s toyed with the principles of curiosity, demonstration, awakening their senses and making connections, the Year 9’s were faced with the added challenges of taxing weather conditions to test their ‘corporalita’- mind/body fitness.

Affirmation of Oppong and Gelb’s views was evident in that our students returned with increased positivity and affirmation of their potential. I received comments such as ‘we just stayed positive’ and ‘just when I thought there were no more hills to climb, there was another, but at the end I couldn’t believe I did it!’

This is evidence of the benefits gained when the mind is open to curiosity, to question the obvious and to experiment with boldness. To step out of one’s comfort zone and just be in the moment. To realise the extent of one’s true potential.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting Salvator Mundi sold in 2017 for $450.3 million dollars at an auction at Christies. Personally, he took pride not so much in his skill as a painter but rather described himself as “Leonardo da Vinci, disscepolo della sperientia” (“disciple of experience”) ¹.  Our students may or may not be gifted with similar artistic talent, however, at St Margaret’s we hope that they may always be intellectually fearless and strive to be the ultimate ‘doers and learners’ of this era, as Davinci was of his time.

Mrs Deborrah Francis
Head of Senior Girls, Wellbeing


  1. Thomas Oppong-
  2. Michael J Gelb-