He is revered as the world’s greatest ever polymath – a genius whose creativity transformed art and science.

Now researchers say Leonardo da Vinci – painter of the Mona Lisa and credited by some with inventing the parachute, helicopter and tank – could help Scotland’s schoolchildren tackle the climate crisis.

They argue that the ability to work across areas of knowledge instead of being stuck in subject “silos” will nurture problem-solving skills necessary to overcoming “existential” challenges of the future.

According to experts from Edinburgh and Cambridge universities, this could be done around wide-ranging themes such as global warming.

Their model is inspired by major Renaissance figures like da Vinci, who moved between disciplinary boundaries in pursuit of deeper and more complete knowledge.

An academic paper, published in the journal Curriculum Perspectives, cites a case study at an Aberdeen primary school where children showed a greater understanding of environmental protection issues after learning to grow food in their school grounds.

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Dr Laura Colucci-Gray, of Edinburgh University’s School of Education and Sport, said: “The nature of these problems calls for a radically different approach to knowledge.

“We are proposing a move from the idea of a curriculum as something children are just ‘given’ to a curriculum ‘in-the-making’, in response to transformations that will define their lives.”

In this alternative model, researchers suggest giving schools greater freedom to determine how to meet general study targets set by the curriculum.

Teachers and leadership teams would make collective decisions and share practices aimed at engaging pupils with unifying themes such as environmental sustainability.

They said their ideas were very much fuelled by the life and work of da Vinci, who was born in 1452 in what was the Republic of Florence.

He would go on to become one of the giants of the High Renaissance, dazzling his contemporaries with artworks and drawings including The Last Supper, Vitruvian Man and Lady With An Ermine.

Da Vinci’s influence in the scientific sphere was equally huge thanks to his notebooks with their studies of animals, plants, rock formations, architecture and flying machines.

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Among his lesser-known inventions is the automated bobbin winder, while his engineering prowess was exemplified when he created a system of movable barricades to protect Venice from attack.

So great were his achievements that it was claimed the King of France supported him in his old age and even held him as he passed away.

He was buried in the collegiate church of Saint Florentin, at the Château d’Amboise, in August 1519.

Interest in da Vinci has never diminished in the centuries since his death, with tourists, students and scholars continuing to flock to his iconic works at venues such as the Louvre in Paris.

Researchers said the example set by his versatility and range could provide huge benefits to today’s children and young people.

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Pam Burnard, professor of arts, creativities and education at Cambridge University, said: “If we look at the amazing designs that da Vinci produced, it’s clear he was combining different disciplines to advance knowledge and solve problems.

“We need to encourage children to think in a similar way because tomorrow’s adults will have to problem-solve differently due to the existential crises they will face: especially those of climate, sustainability, and the precarity of life on Earth.”

Any attempt to reimagine education along transdisciplinary lines, with subjects being taught together, would require attainment to be measured differently, the researchers noted.

Prof Burnard said: “It would require a system of testing which measures how children are internalising ideas and what they are expressing – not just what they know. That may be an uncomfortable idea for some, but it is the sort of radical thinking we need if education is going to prepare young people for the future.”