Activity stations blend discovery, imagination at Leonardo exhibit

Leonardo da Vinci - Codex Leicester exhibit

This story was originally published at ASU News.

Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination has designed a number of activity stations that are integrated into Phoenix Art Museum’s “Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the Power of Observation” exhibit.

The stations encourage visitors to engage in critical and creative thinking and making, and the activities are designed to provide hands-on experiences for visitors to explore a key theme of the exhibit: thinking on paper. The exhibit is on view at the museum through April 12.

“This collaboration with CSI provides a nice opportunity for visitors to practice what they learn in the exhibition about the intersection of curiosity, observation and thinking through ideas. Including interactive elements like these in the gallery context can reinforce concepts in the moment,” said Kathryn Blake, The Gerry Grout Education director at the Phoenix Art Museum.

The three interactive stations blend scientific discovery with creative expression:

  • Codex Word Play provides an opportunity to explore the Codex Leicester and Leonardo’s ideas about water through a mad libs-style exercise, and presents an analog complement to a digital interactive for translating the Codex.
  • Codex Middle Word challenges visitors to synthesize ideas by imagining words that illuminate connections between them. This activity is an attempt to give visitors a sense of Leonardo’s unique, non-linear style of reasoning.
  • Create Your Own Codex prompts visitors to create a codex featuring their own observations about the natural world around them. This station encourages visitors to see the world through Leonardo’s endlessly curious eyes.

The activities were designed by Max Evjen, a specialist in the field of informal science education, in collaboration with Blake and Nina Miller, design strategist at the Center for Science and the Imagination.

“We designed these activity stations to provide fun, reflective, kinesthetic learning experiences that encourage visitors to explore the modes of thought that Leonardo employed to create the Codex Leicester,” said Evjen. “We think everyone will enjoy these opportunities to think like Leonardo.”

“In designing these activities, I wanted to build in elements of physical interaction with the ideas. Leonardo was a tinkerer and maker, as well as a philosopher and scientist,” said Miller. “My goal in the design was to help people to think in a non-linear way, inspired by Leonardo’s unique cognitive style.”

Evjen and researchers from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imaginiation are working together to conduct research on how the activities affect people’s experiences in the exhibition, including how they learn about art and science and understand Leonardo’s unique approach to scientific curiosity, observation and cognition. The research will also evaluate what elements of the exhibition visitors find most engaging, and analyze people’s creative work at the activity stations to explore new ideas and connections that the exhibition helped to bring about.

Admission to the exhibition is included in general admission to Phoenix Art Museum. For more information visit phxart.org/exhibition/codexleicester.