Adriana, Home School

Studying The Italian Renaissance with Kids: A Fantastic Art, History and Geography Adventure!

Inspired by an Art History Class Lily (9) is taking on, the kids and I have delved a little deeper into the Italian Renaissance and some wonderful lessons in History, Art and Geography. Throughout history, no art movement has had an impact quite as profound as the Italian Renaissance. The Renaissance was a time of “Rebirth” and a renewed interest in the culture of classical antiquity. It is a period of great cultural change and achievement that began in Italy during the 14th century and lasted into the 17th century. Master artists like Michaelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci and Rafael adopted a more humanist approach to art. What started as a humanist movement soon spread to other areas including literature, religion, science and exploration. It truly is a revolutionary movement in time with so many magnificent outlets to explore!

The kids and I studied Renaissance altarpieces, what they were used for, the art perspective, families that commissioned them and the history behind the work. Lily painted her own altarpiece on a piece of wood with some acrylic paints. She also created a mosaic vase after we explored the mosaics often found on church walls and ceilings created during the Renaissance and during the Byzantine Empire.

Lily and her fresco – a painting of our family at the dinner table

Inspired by Michelangelo’s works at the Sistine Chapel, Lily decided to try her hand at painting a fresco of her own on our basement wall. She captured our family at the dinner table! The Vatican Museum has a wonderful virtual tour of the chapel found here:

Below is a great clip about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel from ArtRageous with Nate.

If you haven’t ever explored “Rick Steves” programs he has a whole series called “Rick Steves Europe” that you can watch on YouTube. I think it originally aired on PBS programming, but can be found on Youtube too. The kids and I love watching these programs as it gives us a real look into the places we are studying. Below is a link to his episode on Florence, Italy and the Renaissance.

We love science in this house and “egg-speriments,” So, what could be more fun than testing the strength of the dome shaped egg! After learning more about Brunelleschi and his amazing architectural feat with the creation of the Duomo built at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, the kids and I had fun testing out the strength of the dome shape.

For this simple science experiment…

  • Wash and dry some egg shells. The more the better because they do eventually crack under pressure!
  • Place 4 egg shells of about equal size on a flat surface and gradually stack books on top until…. the eggs break!
  • Then weigh your books to see how much weight the eggs held. Ours held a surprising 19 pounds worth of books!
  • If you’d like to have your child practice the Scientific Method, you can have them each write down in their note books a Hypothesis for how much weight they think the eggs will hold, or how many books and then compare the results with their “scientific educated” guesses.

This experiment is a great way to incorporate art, architecture, history, geography and a math lesson!

Below is a great clip about how the Duomo was built.

This is only just the beginning! There are so many fascinating directions you can take when exploring Italy and the time of the Renaissance. The kids are currently working on painting their own self-portraits and creating some DaVinci inspired machines!

Some great books and audio recordings for those ages 6 and up to explore these topics further are:

DK Series Eyewitness Books are full of great information

Along with…

Masters of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and more (The Jim Weiss Audio Collection)

Here’s to Inspiring some Great Artists of Today!


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