A Toolkit for Learning About Biomimicry

Craft & Design Education
A Toolkit for Learning About Biomimicry
Ornilux glass, a biomimetic glass that prevents bird collisions. Photo from HBC Integrated at http://www.hbcintegrated.com.
Ornilux glass, a biomimetic glass that prevents bird collisions, one of the case studies included in the biomimicry toolkit. Photo from HBC Integrated at http://www.hbcintegrated.com.

Over the past eight months, I’ve shared bits of information about biomimicry. You’ve learned about products that emulated nature, fascinating organisms, and sometimes gotten a short lesson about how to incorporate these principles yourself. I hope you’ve developed an appetite for more information about biomimicry, because I’d like to share a valuable, free resource with you.Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 2.15.57 PM

Besides the university-level biomimicry design challenge I wrote about last month, the Biomimicry Institute has also been active in K-12 biomimicry education. It recently released Biomimicry in Youth Education: A Resource Toolkit for K-12 Educators. It’s worth checking out, whether you’re a teacher, a student, or neither, to help you better understand biomimicry. We set this up so that a teacher wanting to learn about biomimicry could find resources here, and have resources to share with students, including lectures, videos, exercises, case studies, and more.

The toolkit links to writings and lectures from Biomimicry 3.8 co-founders Janine Benyus and Dayna Baumeister, two inspiring speakers who are often the first contact people have with biomimicry. There’s a selection of case studies on biomimetic products, ranging from short paragraphs to more in-depth examinations.

Of particular interest to the maker community is Beynus’ 20-minute video on the 3D printing revolution and how we can rethink the supply chain by learning hownature_frog_make02how nature sources materials, uses life-friendly chemistry, uses structure, and upcycles.

Allow yourself to be a child again and view some of the resources aimed toward that age. Maybe if you have a young child, you can use him or her as an excuse. Here’s an example of one of the fun videos, in which several experts talk about what we can learn from geckos, cockroaches, snail slime, giraffe mucus, and hippo sweat. What I love about these particular scientists is how excited they are about the organisms, and about what we can invent using those organisms’ strategies.

Another of my favorites is the series of two-minute videos called AskNature Nuggets, partly because I star in several of them. See the first one produced, where I talk about how kangaroos keep themselves cool.

Take a look, and maybe try out some of the student activities — in the open or hidden in your backyard. But don’t feel bad about getting caught reconnecting with your childlike sense of wonder. Awaking this sleeping skill is an important part of biomimicry.

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Sherry Ritter

Sherry Ritter is a biologist, writer, and educator living in Montana. Before getting involved with biomimicry, she was a wildlife ecologist with state wildlife agencies in Wyoming and Idaho, and worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Biomimicry fits her life-long interest in organisms’ adaptations to survive.

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