Senior students from Meriden in Sydney have demonstrated their exceptional lateral thinking skills in the Da Vinci Decathlon, nabbing two of the top three spots in the state-level competition.
The School’s Year 11 team won first place and the Year 9 team took out third place in a series of challenges that involved more than 3500 of the best and brightest students from public and independent schools across New South Wales.
The results required teams to perform to an extraordinary standard across ten different subject areas, with the Year 11 girls placing first in the state in English, second in Science and third in code-breaking, while the Year 9 team placed second in English.
Dr Phoebe Poon, Meriden’s Coordinator of Learning Link – Gifted and Talented, mentored the Decathlon teams. She said the competition is beneficial for students because it encourages them to apply their existing knowledge in new and unexpected ways.
“Da Vinci requires a lot of strategising; it moves beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines and extends the work the students encounter in their regular classes,” Dr Poon said.
“Due to the complexity of Da Vinci challenges, most of the girls are among the highest academic achievers in the school, but we also value girls who show a knack for teamwork, collaboration and leadership.”
Members of the winning Year 11 team, Annalise Tran and Joanna Kontogiorgis, have been selected for Meriden’s Da Vinci Decathlon team each year since 2015 and placed third in the competition two years ago.
“We went into the competition this year thinking ‘it’s our last year together as a team, we’re just going to do this together and see what happens’ – and look what happened,” Annalise said.
Joanna said the best part of the competition was the way her team members supported each other in moments of pressure during the timed challenges.
“We worked well as a team yesterday and each of us played to our strengths. I like being able to work with my friends and attack difficult problems by combining our brainpower,” she said.
Acting Principal, Mrs Christine Kenny, said the school was proud of all the girls who participated in the Da Vinci Decathlon.
“Congratulations to every girl, from Year 7 to Year 11, who represented Meriden with enthusiasm; your desire to work hard and confront challenges will stand you in good stead not just for the rest of your school years, but also for life beyond them,” Mrs Kenny said.
“The success of our senior girls is testimony to the power of deliberate practice and the critical importance of working on projects you love with people you trust.”
The notoriously challenging Da Vinci Decathlon is named after artist, scholar and thinker, Leonardo Da Vinci who, aside from his wide-ranging body of work, was known for his ideation and his passion for improving upon ideas. The competition requires students to work in teams of eight to test their strengths in ten categories: Engineering, Mathematics and Chess, Code Breaking, Art and Poetry, Science, English, Ideation, Creative Producers, Cartography and General Knowledge. The papers aim to challenge gifted students and it is not unusual for high school students to receive questions that would challenge individuals at a university level. The competition has regional, state and national rounds and is open to students from Years 5 to 11.
Meriden girls participate in the Da Vinci Decathlon as part of the school’s cross-curricular focus on Lateral Learning, which aims to provide students with skills in seven core areas that encourage them to be active, inquisitive and life-long learners. Areas of focus include critical thinking and research, speech, STEM, innovative technology, gifted and talented, making global connections and literary engagement.
The Da Vinci Decathlon Year 9 team included Trisha Chari, Adele Dang, Joanna Li, Annabelle Strachan, Juna Suh, Eunice Thi, Shirley Wang and Elaine Zhang. The Year 11 team included Olivia Arvanitis, Grace Blomfield, Teresa Ho, Joanna Kontogiorgis, Christiana Stone, Annalise Tran, Anthea Trang and Helena Yan.
Pictured above: Members of Meriden’s victorious Year 11 Da Vinci Decathlon team with the competition trophy.