The seventh grade recently finished a history block on the Renaissance – a period brimming with excellent possibilities for learning through biographies. Our block began with the life story of Joan of Arc. The seventh graders marveled at Joan’s bravery in choosing death over imprisonment. Learning about the lives of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael was fascinating for students and teacher alike. From Leonardo’s flying machine sketches and dissections, to Michelangelo’s habit of not wearing socks for long periods of time, the artist’s quirks and timeless masterpieces captured our imaginations.
One assignment asked each student to copy a great master painting of their choice. They quickly realized how challenging it was to draw the figures (and in two cases, horses), as well as match the values and hues. We were able to apply our math study of ratios to scale the paintings down to the size of our paper while keeping the same proportions. One of the most memorable experiences of the block was a drawing activity intended to simulate what it might have felt like for Michelangelo to work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For about 30 minutes, students drew a map of Italy on the underside of their desks! (photo below). Credit for this fun idea goes out to Mr. Masi, former intern in grade one.
At the end of the block, students shared which of the triad of great artists was their favorite. The top two were Michelangelo and Raphael – the former for his incredible willpower, and the latter for his gifts of being well-loved, and able to produce an abundance of beautiful paintings. Other figures we studied were Filippo Brunelleschi, Martin Luther, Johannes Gutenberg, Henry VIII, and Queen Elizabeth. For seventh graders – a time when the students’ identities are emerging – the theme of strong individuals was potent medicine.
Our next challenge will be to take on Shakespeare! Keep an eye out for the seventh grade play in March!