Engaging with the polymath that was Leonardo da Vinci

By Cassandra Beardall

Imagine competing in 10 subjects – from engineering and drama to code breaking and poetry – in the space of one day, against students from 180 schools throughout Australia. Pacific Hills Christian School in Dural has (again) taken part in the stimulating and challenging Da Vinci Decathlon established by Knox Grammar School.

The Da Vinci Decathlon is run in the spirt of an Olympic Decathlon. John Weeks, Headmaster of Knox Grammar, envisions the annual event becoming a very strong international competition within the next 3 -5 years as multiple countries are quickly requesting to come on board.

The Da Vinci Decathlon is a challenge to the best and brightest young brains in our school. This program challenges students from Years 5-11 in a series of challenges inspired by the great polymath Leonardo da Vinci, largely considered to be the most versatile and multitalented person who has ever lived. The Decathlon places emphasis on higher order thinking skills, problem solving and creativity.

Students from Pacific Hills eagerly embraced this opportunity and teams of eight students from middle and senior school completed tests in Science, Cartography (mapping), Mathematics, English, Ideation (forming ideas or images), Engineering, Creative Producers (drama), Code Breaking, Art and Poetry. This provided our students with the opportunity to cross multiple subjects and go beyond the classroom and textbook, applying theory to real life situations.

The tests inspired the students to become more aware of their capabilities and how much they can achieve within a pressured environment with strict time limits. Differences were noticed within the mindset of the participants. The students had a greater sense of comradeship, of the need to work hard, and a deeper understanding of intellectual humility, being aware that they know a lot but there is so much more to discover.

The teamwork and leadership of the group was paramount to the smooth functioning of task completion. The eleventh part of the decathlon was the cooperation, the division of the tasks between the members, and learning to trust in the integrity and ability of others.

Due to COVID – 19 the 2021 decathlon was held virtually over Zoom with a judge watching the students’ complete tasks in real time. A home ground advantage helped the students to feel comfortable and ready to give the competition their all.

Colin Lees, a supervising teacher, recognised the student’s efforts recalling that he was “particularly delighted with their teamwork. They genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, and they were encouraging and supportive.”

Pacific Hills will be watching to see how these young students utilise this experience to contribute towards their future and the betterment of the wider community.

Hannah Kok from Year 6 stated that “it was enjoyable, challenging and we had to work as a team. It was a once in a lifetime chance”. Claire Li in Year 5 said she “found it really interesting and it sort of stretched my mind to think about things I’d never previously considered.”

Well done to the students for representing Pacific Hills and for your efforts throughout the competition.