Biomimicry Projects for Homeschool Students
As homeschoolers, we have enormous advantages when it comes to bringing nature into the homeschool room. Introducing biomimicry into your home is a great opportunity not only to take out the magnifying glasses, and binoculars but also the art supplies. A wonderful opportunity to mix science and art.
A biomimicry lens gives your kids the freedom to engage with nature and to use their observations to solve problems or invent things. The term biomimicry comes from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate.
How mimicking nature inspires new ideas
Using nature as inspiration is not something new. Leonardo da Vinci made numerous notes and sketches on the flight of birds. Although he never successfully created a flying machine, the Wright brothers who did succeed in creating a flying machine, studied pigeons.
Yet biomimicry is a more focused approach where a biomimicrist uses various methods and tools that have been specially developed to help us tap into nature’s secrets.
The invention of velcro is an example of a design inspired by nature. George de Mestral invented Velcro in 1941. He was inspired by the burrs he found on himself and on his dog. He studied the burrs under the microscope and realized that the small hooks of the burr and loops of the fur of the dog or fabric of his clothes allowed the burr to adhere exceedingly well.
The thrill of a great idea!
By inspiring your kids to explore biomimicry you provide them with an opportunity to be amazed by the natural world and to discover functions and strategies that nature uses. A way to explore the functions that animals and plants perform both themselves and in their ecosystems. This approach is a creative way to explore underlying patterns and functions.
Memorisation plays an important part when you study biology but creative thinking is more important when you engage in biomimicry.
Biomimicry is about observing behaviours and functions and using these as a stepping-stone for ideas. There are no right or wrong answers or solutions. Building models and making sketches is a vital part of biomimicry.
How can I incorporate nature and biomimicry into my homeschool?
The term “nature study” means different things to different people. Many believe that you have to travel to specific spots to study animals, plants or fungi. But using biomimicry can mean that you spend time in your garden, local park, or museum.
There is a range of educational videos that are perfect for biomimicry. It is sometimes difficult to catch some behaviour but watching a high-quality video can reveal secrets. It is also possible to watch a video several times, which can be very helpful when you are exploring how a caterpillar can walk upside down on a leaf?
Conduct classes outside
In the warmer months, you can pack lunches, supplies and books for the day, and head out. Observing your natural area using sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Tuning into one or more of your senses can heighten your observations.
Select a colour and tell your kids to observe how this colour is used in a natural environment. Can you find any pattern in how the colour is used?
Daily or weekly walks to the same spot offer opportunities to notice patterns and changes. Simply immersing ourselves in nature means that we are open to discovery. It might be the way a slug moves across the grass on a rainy day. Slime is a wonderful substance that helps a slug to glide over things. The observation can spark ideas such as “What if you could use slime under your shoes to walk home faster?
Why biomimicry is suitable for homeschooling
- Encourages kids to ask questions – question-asking is an important skill.
- Time to explore a topic – allowing your kids time to ponder whether it is outside or inside reading or watching a video, and to turn this observation into a toy, robot, household equipment or a way to help a friend or family member to overcome a problem is a wonderful experience.
- Project-based learning encourages deep and complex learning.
- Ideas develop over time and your kids can leave a project and return to it after a couple of weeks. Great ideas sometimes require time to develop.
- It offers a wonderful opportunity to mix topics such as biology, chemistry, art and literature.
Rainy day options
Sometimes it is not possible to stay outside for long. But natural history museums and botanical gardens can provide great inspiration.
Your kids can build up a collection of natural artefacts, just make sure that you are responsible. Feathers from different birds can provide insight into how birds can fly. Bladderwrack is a fascinating algae that can be found on the beach. Imagination and creative thinking are required to come up with ideas.
“An idea that emerged inspired by our beachcombing was floating roundish solar panels that collect energy in the water, maybe even wave energy. The energy is sent to our homes via tiny strings. Live seaweed materials are used to construct these special solar and wave panels.”
You can start with a specific problem or design challenge in mind and then ask your kids to look for inspiration in nature to solve the challenge. I think this approach suits older kids a bit better.
The opposite approach can successfully be used with younger kids, where you use the fascination for nature as a starting point. Imagination and creative thinking is used to develop an idea. And critical thinking is needed to ensure that the innovation or solution is working.
What impact should you see?
Biomimicry builds confidence and gives nature value. Your kids will be filled with awe for nature while they explore curious questions, and use their observations to create, draw and build models of their ideas.
Teaching students to use creative techniques and tools is vital if they are going to help solve problems that they will face in the future. But most of all biomimicry is tremendously fun!