Teacher notes

It is impossible to think of the Renaissance without thinking of Leonardo Da Vinci. His accomplishments as an artist, scientist, and inventor establish him as a quintessential Renaissance man, the embodiment of Renaissance intellectual ideals. In this lesson, students will examine the life and works of Leonardo and produce a portfolio of information which may include written reports, art works, and invention models.

Assignment Leonardo

From the Court of Francis I

In the year of Our Lord, 1516

To My Dear Colleagues, Greetings

It has come to the ears ofmy Master, His Most Gracious Majesty, Francis I, King of France, that one Leonardo Da Vinci, currently residing among you in the Vatican, has made no small name for himself as an artist, scientist, and inventor. It is the practice of His Majesty to encourage such people by his employment of their talents in the pursuit of His Majesty's interests. Before, however, issuing an invitation to Leonardo to join His Majesty’s court, my Master wishes to know something more about him. Specifically, His Majesty wishes to know something of Leonardo’s life, for example, where and when was he born? What is his family background? Where did he receive his education? What are his accomplishments as an artist, as a scientist, and as an inventor?
Please reply to this request for information in the form of portfolio of information. Include in the portfolio a biography of Leonardo, a statement of his accomplishments and worth as an artist, a statement of his scientific work, and a summary, including, of his inventions.
My Master and I look forward with great interest to receiving your portfolio.

Yours most sincerely,

Louis, clerk
in the court of
His Most Gracious Majesty, Francis I

To satisfy the request from the court of Francis I, your assignment is to produce a portfolio of information on Leonardo Da Vinci. The portfolio will consist of four elements:

  1. a biography---the story of Leonardo's life;
  2. the story of Leonardo the artist;
  3. the story of Leonardo the scientist;
  4. the story of Leonardo the inventor. Your portfolio must include written reports, and may include student art work and models of Leonardo's inventions.

Steps to Follow

Step One:
Meet with your group and decide who will be responsible for each part of the portfolio.

Part I:

    Who was Leonardo Da Vinci? Who were his parents? Where was he born. How was he educated? (Consider designing a time line to illustrate the major events of Leonardo's life. Work with other team members to include information from their research).

Part II:

    What kind of artist was Leonardo--painter, sculptor? What are his most well known works of art? Do they have their own stories? Where are they now? What do art historians say about them? You may wish to make a poster or collage to illustrate your work.

Part III:

    What did Leonardo do to contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge during the Renaissance? Did the Catholic church support his work? Why or why not? How did he handle opposition to his work? What were his lasting contributions? Can you think of a way to illustrate your report with Leonardo's drawings?

Part IV:

    What did Leonardo invent? Were any of his ideas ever produced during his lifetime? On what scientific principles were his ideas based? What lasting contributions did Leonardo make in this field? You may elect to build a model of one or more of Leonardo's inventions as part of this project.

Step Two:
Gather information

    Biographers, artists, scientists, and inventors will meet as expert groups to gather and share information. Meet first to decide what resources you will use and how you will divide them. It is not necessary for each person to use every resource. Assign teams to standard references (encyclopedias, etc.), other print resources (books and magazines), and the computer.

    Many books have been written for young people about the life and times of Leonardo Da Vinci. Look in your school library or County Library branch to find them. You may also use your textbook, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, and other reference works in the library. Below is a list of websites you may visit on-line:


    (This is a wonderful site--highly recommended!)

    Time on-line in the classroom or in the library will be limited. When it is your group's turn at the computer, use your time as efficiently as possible. When you find something you think will be useful to you, print it out for later analysis. Do not tie up computer time by trying to read everything on-line.

    Note: With your teacher, please review your school's acceptable use policy for work on the Internet. Also, links to the Web often change. Tell your teacher when you find a poor link in this guide.

Step Three:
Begin Writing

    The key to this step is organizing the information you found in your research. What are the main ideas you will be discussing? Use of a graphic organizer can help you at this point in your work. The organizer may be in the form of an outline, a time line, a web, etc.

Step Four:
Final Drafts/Assemble Portfolios

    In your portfolio groups, meet to plan your presentation. How will you tell your part of Leonardo's story? Do you have graphics, art work, or models to include?

Project Time Line

Plan your time to adhere to the following schedule. Note that there is no time in class for art work or model building. Such work must be done at home or after school by arrangement with your teacher.

Day 1

Decide who will be responsible
for which part of portfolio

Day 2
Library research
Day 3
Library research

Expert groups meet to gather information

Day 4

Experts meet with their portfolio group
to share information.

Day 5

Experts meet to organize
using graphic

Day 6

Portfolio groups meet to share organizers and
begin writting.

Day 7

Finish writing
first drafts.

Day 8

Portfolio groups meet to critique drafts and suggest changes.

Day 9

Finish writing
final drafts.

Day 10

Assemble portfolios.
questions to ask
other groups during presentations.


Evaluation Criteria

Both your teacher and your classmates, using criteria agreed upon prior to the beginning of the project, will evaluate your work. You will be graded on:

  1. The quality of your written work. Is it detailed, complete, and correct as to form? Have you been historically accurate? This is an individual grade, not a group grade.
  2. The quality of the group product. Does the portfolio contain submissions from every member of the group? Is it well organized and neatly presented? Is required documentation included?
  3. The quality of your presentation to the class. Did you present your part of the project? Were you able to answer questions from the class? This is an individual grade, not a group grade.
  4. Your participation in your group. This grade will be issued by your group members, individually and confidentially using the Group Evaluation form.


Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most intelligent, talented, and interesting men the world has ever seen. I hope you find something in this project which captures your interest and imagination and helps make the Renaissance come alive for you.


Write a brief (one page or less) reflection on this project. Discuss what you learned. Why do you think Leonardo Da Vinci has been chosen as the main example of the Renaissance? What was the most interesting thing you learned about Leonardo? Why do you say so? Is there anything you would like to know more about? How will you find out about it? Also discuss what you learned about working with your group. Did your group work well together? Did you have some problems but worked them out? Did your group not work well togther? Why? What did you do best? What would you have done differently?

Last Revised: 03/28/06