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Do You See?

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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“There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Who doesn’t remember the first look at cork cells under a microscope? There was a beauty and elegance to this microscopic world that had just opened up.

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As part of the lab report, we drew that honeycomb of interlocking shapes. That was seventh grade science, and I was hooked.

My love of science grew from that class, but most of all, from that teacher. Mrs. Robinson. I’ll always remember her. She was much older than Caryn to my thirteen-year-old perceptions, but her subject and her enthusiasm for it made an impression on me. When I saw Caryn talking about drawing to really see the beauty in science, it reminded me of what good teachers do with the subject.

Do You See?-leonardo_self-portrait.jpg
Leonardo saw the beauty in nature, including himself.

As a former science teacher in elementary and secondary schools, I recognize the enthusiasm of the young children as they encounter science. You could actually see the light bulb go on during an activity. Moving up the grades, the enthusiasm declined. But science teachers who love their subject make biology interesting and relevant—and that opens the world. Seeing through drawing is an idea da Vinci began, and it’s a wonderful way to teach biology.

Leonardo da Vinci’s quote seems to fit Caryn’s view of biology. What a wonderful teacher!

Caryn’s drawing connection to Leonardo reminds us that looking at the depth and detail in science is what makes it the fascinating subject it is. Da Vinci showed us the beauty and symmetry of the human body, nature, and the shapes of organisms in his world. Today, science teachers pass along the skill da Vinci had innately.

There are always the students who see. Teachers skilled in revealing the nature of science help those who need to see. Those who do not see need the teachers the most. That’s the nature of the job—and Caryn’s use of Leonardo’s techniques might just open some eyes.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.