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Da Vinci Decathlon: expecting the unexpected

Da Vinci News Term 25 

Girls from Junior and Senior School had an opportunity to test their intellectual mettle at the Da Vinci Decathlon 2018 last week, competing against some of the brightest students in Sydney to solve mind-boggling, ‘da Vinci-esque’ challenges.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the world’s greatest thinkers and the creative genius who painted the Mona Lisa and conceived of the world’s first flying machine. This tough interschool contest of the mind, created by Knox Grammar School, is run in the spirit of an Olympic decathlon, with teams of eight students competing in 10 events in categories such as Science, Philosophy, Engineering and Code Breaking.

Da Vinci News Term 22

Wenona sent two teams from Years 5 and 6, accompanied by Gifted and Talented coordinator Ms De Rossi (and accompanied in spirit by Leonardo da Vinci). They competed against 137 rival teams from schools across Sydney. The girls had to share their strengths and work together, supporting and motivating each other to find solutions to problems based around this year’s theme, ‘The unexpected’.

Nina (Year 6) said, “Da Vinci Decathlon was an excellent day full of teamwork, curiosity and laughter. Everyone in my group competed in at least three of the ten disciplines, and we all tried our best. Whilst working in a team can be challenging, our group communicated effectively to brainstorm ideas and find solutions. Overall, the Da Vinci Decathlon was a fantastic experience.” 

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After a long and thrilling day of racing against the clock to complete each task, the Junior School students were pleased with their performance. The Year 5 team (Bethany, Bethan, Shan Shan, Nina, Ava, Annabelle, Sahana and Amelie) were placed 4th overall in Creative Producers (Dramatic Performance), 12th in English, and 9th in Ideation. And the Year 6 team (Dylan, Nina, Jemma, Ava, Jemima, Lucy, Charlotte and Melissa) placed 3rd in English, 6th in Code Breaking, 7th in Art and Poetry, 16th in Creative Producers, and came 15th overall in the competition. 

Charlotte (Year 6) said, “Both teams from Wenona performed exceptionally well and worked cooperatively as a team. Year 6 were particularly excited to be placed third in English overall. We also got to dance and participate in spontaneous creative problem-solving throughout the day. It was great fun for everybody.”

Ms De Rossi said, “The girls are all to be commended for their team spirit, and the enthusiasm they exhibited as they turned up eagerly each Thursday morning for 10 weeks prior to the competition to explore the theme. They thrived on working together and their results are a great credit to their teachers.”

Our Senior School students, accompanied by Gifted and Talented Teacher Mr Rigg, also enjoyed the opportunity to stretch their thinking and work cohesively as a team.

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“Our Year 7 students (Jemima, Sophie, Caitlin, Emily, Imogen, Matilda, Zoe and Emily) placed first in Engineering, while they came 16th in Cartography, and equal 14th in the Creative Producers event,” said Mr Rigg. “Our Year 8 students came equal 13th in Engineering, and 14th in Maths. Our Year 9 students came 9th in English. Our Year 10 students (Mia, Emily, Claudia, Greta, Natalie, Laura, Lucinda, Eleanor, Sarah, Natasha, Madeleine, Anna, Emma, Jasmine, Kelly and Jade) competed in the Year 11 section and placed in two events: 15th in Engineering and equal 16th in Code Breaking. These results are a fabulous achievement considering that they challenged themselves to compete against older students.” 

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The Year 8 team (Bella, Kate, Grace, Rosie, Amelia, Asmara, Maya and Ruby) said although most of them had participated in the Decathlon in previous years, and knew the skills they needed to be successful, they still acquired new ones in the lead up to the competition, including teamwork, conflict resolution and time management skills. They also said they learned not to make assumptions and to think reflectively and critically before starting a task.

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The Year 9 team (Jessica, Ellie, Chloe, Lexie, Charlotte, Darcy, Lina and Charlotte) loved the whole Decathlon experience. Charlotte said, “We fostered a great sense of camaraderie and friendship, especially when faced with some of the more difficult challenges. It was a wonderful opportunity to exploit our strengths and have an academic learning challenge outside the typical classroom setting. Meeting regularly prior to the challenge was important for team-building, recognising individual ability, and discussing the ten components we would have to complete. Overall, it was a very enjoyable and positive experience!”

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Ellie (Year 9) said “It was a challenging experience which put our minds to the test. We expected challenges that would push us and that is what we got, with many causing us to gain headaches! Working together, we filled in blanks others could not and gave each other ideas. I learned a lot from doing Da Vinci, including how you can adapt prior knowledge and skills to answer something you have seen for the first time on the day. The competition was both fun and challenging at the same time and forced us to use skills we would never really need in normal school or everyday life. It was an experience I will never regret.”

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Mr Rigg said the students’ results were significant given that there were more than 1,200 students competing in the Year 7 and Year 8 round, and 1,675 students competing in the Year 9 to 11 competition. 

It’s not easy to live up to the legend of a polymath like Leonardo da Vinci, but our students all showed great persistence, creativity, collaboration and lateral thinking. We feel sure that the there-in-spirit Mr da Vinci was looking on, suitably impressed!