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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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What Gifted Kids Can Learn From Leonardo da Vinci

Before class, one of my third-grade students came to me and showed me a picture of a dog that she had drawn. I noticed that it looked very much like every other dog picture that she had drawn.

Not wanting to discourage her creative spark, I gently told her that I liked it and that I noticed she had drawn the shape of the dog’s head in the very same manner in every picture. I asked her why she didn’t consider drawing a dog from different angles then proceeded to tell her how Leonardo da Vinci would draw objects, such as flowers, from multiple angles and perspectives.

She was familiar with da Vinci because just a few weeks earlier she completed a unit about the Italian Renaissance man, who some believe was the greatest genius of all time.

Da Vinci is a wonderful model for children, particularly gifted children who need encouragement in developing their talents and abilities.  He was much more than a brilliant painter and artist. He was an inventor, an architect, a military strategist, a musician, an equestrian, among other roles.  He demonstrated what the mind can do and the possibilities of human potential.

In particular, da Vinci offers the following lessons for the gifted:


1. Use Your Ability

Da Vinci constantly demonstrated his talent and skill through his work, which included paintings (the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper), sketches, inventive ideas, city architectural plans, and sculptures. Although he is criticized by some for not finishing projects, he was undoubtedly a highly productive person (I’ve read where he only slept a few hours a day).

2. Love of Learning

Da Vinci was on a constant quest for knowledge, truth, and beauty. He learned for the sake of gaining knowledge and understanding. In this high-stakes testing world, students (and educators) often lose sight that learning can be its own reward.

3. Develop Multiple Talents     

Da Vinci wore many hats. He painted, sculpted, sketched, designed military weapons, planned cities. He was also reported to be a musician, athlete, and a social success.  He serves as an example to gifted students that they can develop a number of talents and be well-rounded despite having a particular advanced ability in an area.

4. Doodle

    Don’t discourage gifted kids from daydreaming and doodling. Da Vinci recorded thousands of pages of notes, many filled with doodles and elaborate drawings that complimented his writings. Da Vinci has been criticized by scholars for being unorganized. The same page in his journal, for example, might contain a shopping list, a joke, and an invention or scientific discovery. But others view his notes reflecting an unencumbered mind that was free to create.

      5. Failure is part of Success

      Not all of da Vinci’s inventions or ideas worked. However, he wasn’t afraid to be innovative and produced so many ideas that some –such his idea for a parachute- proved successful, some 500 years later.



        How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael Gelb.