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Wenona tackles the da Vinci Decathlon

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Girls from Years 7 and 9 put their intellectual mettle to the test at the NSW State da Vinci Decathlon last week.

This tough interschool competition is hosted by Knox Grammar School. Each participating school forms teams of eight students, who then compete together in 10 different events: science, engineering, mathematics and chess, cartography, general knowledge, English, art and poetry, code breaking, ideation and creative producers. The Wenona teams went head to head against 75 rival schools, battling it out against some of the brightest students in Sydney as they attempted to solve mind-boggling ‘da Vinci-esque’ challenges.

Gifted and Talented Teacher, Mr Ben Rigg worked closely with the students in the lead up to the da Vinci Decathlon. He said, “They, and their peers who met regularly with them, collaborated for several months in preparation for the competition. In our meetings, we explored the decathlon’s theme of ‘landscapes’ metaphorically as well as literally, as we solved problems relating to different areas of study.”

Their preparation paid off. After a long day of racing against the clock to complete each task, the Year 7 students – Isabella, Chelsea, Sienna, Melissa, Nina, Ava, Katrina and Alison - were pleased with their performance, coming 4th overall, and placing 3rd in English, 3rd in engineering, 3rd in art and poetry, 5th in cartography and 12th in ideation.

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Alison (Year 7) said, “The da Vinci Decathlon was a great experience for all of us. The team and I gained a lot from it, such as teamwork and cooperation. Some situations where we had to use those skills were when we found some questions hard or in general knowledge, and when we had to help each other out with what we knew as individuals to answer the questions. By using those skills, we ended up winning 3rd in English, engineering, and art and poetry. Overall, the da Vinci Decathlon was an enjoyable, challenging and wonderful day for all of the team.”

Isabella (Year 7) said, “While we came away with a few certificates, my team and I gained a lot more than academic knowledge from the da Vinci Decathlon. Without perseverance, we would not have made it as far and a lot of the tasks would have been incomplete. Not only this, but we would have given up part way during the challenge because of frustration, so persistence was the key to our success.”

Nina (Year 7) said, "I really enjoyed the da Vinci Decathlon. We all displayed teamwork and cooperation, helping each other find answers and solutions. We are all very proud of our results. I would like to thank all the teachers who let us have this opportunity, especially Mr Rigg for accompanying us to Knox."


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And Sienna (Year 7) said, “My time at the da Vinci Decathlon was one of the craziest, most exciting and unreal times in my life. It was challenging though, because everything was timed, and most of the activities were things that even some university students wouldn't know. Although we were having fun, we didn't have very high expectations since all the other teams looked like they knew what they were doing. However, when we found out we had received 3rd place for three events and that we came 4th overall, we were ecstatic! I had so much fun doing this and I think everyone felt the same way. But the best thing about Da Vinci was hanging out with my friends!”

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Our Year 9 students - Kate, Bella, Ally, Grace, Rosie, Ana, Celine and Kyla - also performed well, coming 7th in ideation, 9th in English and 12th in engineering.

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They said, “At the da Vinci Decathlon, we participated in a series of challenges of different areas designed to make us think and work as a team. Some of the challenges were in an exam format, and other tasks more creative. For example in art and poetry we were tasked with creating a piece of art with an integrated poem and in engineering, a cantilever bridge. We worked mostly in pairs to complete tasks under time pressure. We found this quite different from school projects we have completed before as it challenged us to think outside the box and tackle concepts and words we hadn’t seen or learned about before. The different dynamic among our team was enjoyable and certainly engaging. This was a really valuable experience as we not only got to work with girls and perspectives from our own year group but we also heard perspectives from other schools which was really interesting to hear and learn from.”

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Mr Rigg was delighted with the students’ performance. He said, “All students involved in our preparation and the teams who attended the competition ought to be congratulated for seeking challenges in their learning. With this mindset, they collaborated very well, thought creatively and critically, and were persistent when solving challenging problems. These skills will serve them well in life. Well done ladies for challenging yourselves and enjoying each other’s company throughout our preparation and the competition.”