Almost 500 years following his death, the name Leonardo Da Vinci still tops most lists of the greatest scientific minds in world history. The “Renaissance Man” with insatiable curiosity and determined innovation, Da Vinci became an accomplished inventor, scientist, mathematician, painter, sculptor, architect, cartographer, engineer, anatomist, botanist, geologist, and writer. Da Vinci's 7 Principles serve as guideposts for STEM/STREAM education today:
1. Curiosità: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
2. Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
3. Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
4. Sfumato (literally means “Going up in Smoke”): A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
5. Arte/Scienza (art and science): The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination (“whole-brain” learning and thinking.)
6. Corporalita: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
7. Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena.
For 21st century STEM success, our students must learn to solve problems by creative/inventive Da Vincian thinking. “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties” as psychologist Eric Fromm stated, accentuating the fourth of Da Vinci’s Principles.
Our test-centric schools of today may be unwittingly constraining student imagination and creativity by insisting that all thinking must conform to a preordained “correct” answer, rather than allowing for multiple solutions, multiple avenues to arrive at each of them, and more than one suitable answer to the same question or problem. (It is important to note that no high-achieving nation spends as much time, money or organized efforts on standardized testing as we do).