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ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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your favorite Leonardo?
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Q: Unknown

Hey, Caryn. I’m an 8th grader and I was wondering if there would be a really cool science project involving what you do. Can you help?

A: Caryn Babaian

Sure- there are lots of experiments you can do with drawing but this depends on a few things though. First, an easy one, “the split brain experiment” A very simple, easy experiment to do is to set up your class or at least a few people, provide pencils and paper for all of them (2 pencils per person) and ask them to draw 2 different objects with both hands at the same time (like a star and a question mark) Then record how many people could actually draw two separate, identifiable stars and question marks. If you do this with a large enough sample size record your numbers to see if most people can’t do this or if most people can do this. The fact that you cannot really draw two different objects points to the fact that corpus callosum is intact and that the right and left hemispheres are linked. Now these experiments have already been done of course -another option is you can also use drawing for optical illusion experiments.

One experiment that might be interesting is to test how drawing (preferably living things) can affect memory and emotion. You pick a topic like seashells, give two groups a small book or pamphlet on seashells have one group of students draw them for let’s say 2 weeks for 5 hours a week) have your control group simply read about seashells, then give them an exam on those seashells or the information in the book and see which group scores better. You can draw (no pun intended) conclusions about how drawing influences memory and testing from this kind of experiment.

For the emotional aspect you can do the same kind of experiment except pick something people are scared of like insects, give a pre survey asking them about their fear, why they are afraid, etc., have one group read about insects like hornets wasps, have the other group carefully draw hornets and wasps, either ones you have found that are dead or from a book. After a period of two weeks give both groups a post survey asking them how they feel about insects now.

I don’t know what your time frame is or what materials you can use but whatever experiment you do, you can always employ the use of art, either in your poster, or as observation of change or as part of the experiment itself.

Q: Ann McDonald

Have you ever read, “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”? It is a fun book, especially for a teacher.

A: Caryn Babaian

Yes, I have- it is a fun book to read. There is a fantastic book on DaVinci by Fritj Capra, who, I believe, more than anyone captured the spirit of Leonardo. If we really want to think like him (although in modern times with all the distractions it might be difficult!) we would have to emulate his lifestyle choices, especially the ones that impacted his thinking, like rescuing animals, dedication to painting as form of science, innovation, and spending lots of time with nature- it can be done and any small part of this is a start. Thanks for posting.

Q: Greatguyrich

I am interested in Marsupials such as the Wombat and Wallaby. These animals seem to have distinctive qualities. Which Marsupials would you recommend drawing as I want to begin drawing them? (I used to draw well, but currently I am rusty and getting back into drawing.)

A: Caryn Babaian

Marsupials are not that difficult to draw because they are fundamentally like mammals in structure and form from the outside, regardless of the marsupium (pouch). Just look at your subject and study its character, then try to find the basic elements that make up its general shape (usually cylinders/ovals).