Check out this amazing mural created by the artist Jayne Kim. She brought 270 species of birds alive on wall space at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Visitor Center. In greyscale along the staircase, she has painted some bird species that are extinct – so this mural is covering a span of about 350 million years. You can also see a black caiman, a crocodile reptile. The caiman is there to highlight that the closest relatives to birds were crocodiles.
Majestic and beautiful with their characteristic wrinkled grey skin. Elephants have inspired several innovative ideas.
Projects about Africa or Asia often include learning about elephants. You can use biomimicry cards in the classroom to further enhance learning about these fantastic animals. Elephants are well known among kids for their unique appearance with their swinging flexible trunks and huge size. But diving deeper into these animals is not only tremendously fun it is also essential to the work to save these creatures. Love and caring start with understanding!
Our largest terrestrial mammal has an amazing flexible trunk that has helped designers create a robotic arm. Their trunk lacks bones and the move towards “soft robotics” have helped create solutions that can aid the handicapped or assist with heavy lifting in the agriculture business. Elephant’s trunk is structured like a human tongue, functions like an arm, and is a nose!
Elephants can twist their trunks. They can twist it in both left-and-right motions. Elephants use suction power for eating. They suck up small pieces of food through their trunk.
Making a drawing of the trunk with the muscles is a perfect way to gain a deeper understanding. Developing drawing skills is very useful and many kids love observing an animal or plant in detail.
Also, the foot of the African elephant is remarkable. Not only does it support the weight of the largest terrestrial mammal, but it also absorbs and distributes forces. Their feet have large cushions, which are essential in spreading forces during weight bearing. Amazingly the cushions are also very sensitive. Elephants “hear” with their sensitive feet. They emit low-frequency sounds, infrasound, that travels under the ground. An elephant stomps the ground to alert other elephants of danger. The feet of other elephants sense the vibrations.
The patchwork pattern of the skin is also a great topic for making detailed sketches. The pattern helps the elephant stay cool since rough skin retains moisture better than smooth skin. The elephant’s skin thickens over time and the new layers put pressure on the outermost layer and it eventually cracks.
“If the skin was shedding, it would never get thick enough to generate the stress inside the little valleys of this lattice of elevations, and you would not have the cracks appearing,”
You can read more about how this work here – something that scientists recently have explained.
The moisture capture ability of the wrinkled skin has inspired ideas to make tiles that help to cool buildings. A couple ot weeks ago I listened to bioSEA explain some of their ideas to reduce the need for aircon in tropical and subtropical climate.
Elephant-skin inspired tiles for buildings could help them manage heat gain and improve ventilation. Photos by: BioSea and Jennife Latuperisa Andresen, Unsplash.
The colour-changing ability of chameleons is fascinating! These remarkable creatures are perfect for introducing biological strategies to young children. Exploring how the change colour at will is something that will capture kids’ imagination.
Yet, the colour changing is only the start. Chameleons’ tongues can be twice as long as its body. The tongue can extend out fast and with a lot of power. The smallest species often have the most powerful and fastest tongues.
Their tongues roll up like an accordion. The tongue has a special elastic tissue that makes it possible to roll it up. The tip of the tongue is covered in glands and acts like a suction cup, which helps them to catch prey. What a great inspiration for a cool innovation!
Did you know that certain species of chameleons glow under UV light? Scientists are not sure why they are biofluorescent. Some chameleon species have conspicuous bony crests and tubercle patterns on their heads. The reason behind these crests and tubercles has so far been unknown but it might be that can emit blue light and that this might help them when they are looking for a partner.
You can find images of bone-based fluorescence in chameleons here:
Click here to read about an innovation inspired by chameleons!
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!
I love frosty mornings when everything is covered with sugary ice. The garden reminds me of Sleeping Beauty. The world has gone into a long much-needed rest to breathe and gather strength. But there is actually plenty of life, beauty and wonder even on a frosty cold winter morning.
The core of biomimicry is to observe nature. It takes time and patience to learn to listen and learn from animals, plants and fungi. Nature does not always reveal its strategies and functions easily. Functions and strategies are fundamental to biomimicry practice.
Wintery trees with their bare branches are perfect for studying in the winter. Trees are the lungs of the natural world but how do trees without any leaves breathe in the winter?
How has the tree adapted to the cold weather?
What happens to the roots?
Are the roots dormant during the winter?
A function is the purpose of something and an organism meets its functional needs through biological strategies. In biomimicry, functions can refer to either the role played by an organism’s adaptations or behaviours that enable it to survive. But function can also refer to something that your design solution should do. A biological strategy is the adaptations that the organism has made to survive.
When kids are inventing something inspired by nature you could ask them what they want their design to do. Try to shift the focus from what you are making to what functions you are designing something for.
“What do you wish that your design can do?”
Tree shapes have inspired many designs such as homes, concert halls and public spaces. Many of these are bioinspired designs rather than biomimicry.
Ask yourself what a design inspired by trees in winter would do.
Would it be able to preserve the energy and wake up on demand during certain types of weather. This design could be inspired by the roots of deciduous trees in the winter. Most roots remain mostly inactive during winter but they can function and grow whenever soil temperatures are favourable. The roots can grow and develop even if the air above the ground is very cold. The roots are resting by they are always prepared. Another idea might be a house that can react to earthquakes.
Beachcombing along the shoreline is exciting. You never know what you might find.
If you are lucky enough you might find a real treasure – a mermaid’s purse hiding among the seaweed.
It is a bit mind-boggling to imagine that a shark or skate might have emerged from the egg case. The little pouches are created to protect and help the baby creature to develop.
Sharks can give birth to live young but they can also either lay eggs or keep the egg case in their body where it hatches – ovoviviparity. Sharks lay egg cases that vary in shape, size and colours. You can go to Shark Trust and download an app to help you with identifying an egg case. You can download posters and also record your findings.
Mermaid purses are not only beautiful but they are also important to monitor and record. The number of sharks is declining and several species are endangered. Tracking where egg cases are found and what species have laid them helps to draw a picture of how species are doing.
Changes in the ocean temperature may also affect baby sharks. Warming oceans may mean that baby sharks emerge from the eggs earlier and they are weaker.
A great hunt for shark eggs is a fantastic way to spend a Sunday!
Enjoy the videos!
Several innovations have been inspired by sharks and I am sure these unique animals will continue to inspire us in the future.
A project about oviparous animals such as sharks is perfect anytime but might be especially welcome instead of the usual Easter egg projects.
Platypuses are remarkable creatures that have a beak and lay eggs. They are not classed as a bird, they are known as monotremes – mammals that lay eggs.
They are also biofluorescent animals, which is different from bioluminescence, where the animal either produces the light itself or hosts other organisms that shine. Various plants, fungi, flowers, insects, fruits and birds can glow under UV light but now they are finding that some mammals like the fascinating platypus can glow. In natural light, platypus’ fur looks brown but when scientists put museum specimens under UV light their fur glows green or blue.
Scientists have known that various plants, fungi, fruits, flowers, insects, and birds can glow, but that mammals can glow are a very recent discovery. Some species of flying squirrels and opossums have fluorescent fur. These biofluorescent mammals do not have much in common apart from being nocturnal – active during the night. Nocturnal mammals might be more likely to glow, yet, it is unclear exactly why. Glowing might be a way to confuse predators.
Previously, we painted a puffin in the Biomimicry Journal with a beak that is almost glowing! So now you can add a glowing platypus to your Biomimicry Journal.
Creating a Biomimicry Journal is a bit different from designing a Nature Journal. Just like when you are making a Nature journal you can make drawings and write about what you see, smell, feel, taste and hear. You can also glue in leaves, flowers and other nature treasures. But you also need to think about ideas and how you can use the observations to “invent ” and design things. And this is the most exciting part!
Looking for ideas to teach kids about Platypus Life Cycle and other interesting facts? You’ll find a booklet here.
Exciting news about this remarkable monotreme mammal.
Echidnas use their own mucus to stay cool.
Echidnas cannot sweat, pant, or lick to keep their bodies cool. But they have an impressive tolerance to heat. Now, scientists have discovered how they do it.
Echidnas stay cool by blowing mucus bubbles through their snout. The bubbles burst over the tip of their beak and wet it. The tip functions as an evaporative window and as the moisture evaporates it cools their blood. How amazing is this!
Thermal imagining cameras have been used to capture this. Scientists have also found that they use other cooling techniques to beat the Australian heat. These findings will help us predict how they might respond to changes in climate. These ways to keep cool help echidnas to be active at higher temperatures.
“We also found their spines provide flexible insulation to retain body heat, and they can lose heat from the spineless areas on their underside and legs, meaning these areas work as thermal windows that allow heat exchange.”
“We also found their spines provide flexible insulation to retain body heat, and they can lose heat from the spineless areas on their underside and legs, meaning these areas work as thermal windows that allow heat exchange.”
This spiky mammal lays eggs. There are five monotremes – four of them are echidnas and the other mammal is the fascinating platypus. Echidnas have hard flat eyes and the claws on the hind limbs are curved backwards to help them dig burrows.
Yet, their snout, sometimes called a beak, is perhaps the most amazing thing.
Echidnas are electroreceptive!
This most fascinating creature has many electroreceptor cells in its snout. These are like little tracking cells that help echidnas trail the movements that their prey make when they are moving. The sniffs can detect even the tiniest muscle movements so that the echidna can capture their prey with razor accuracy.
Nearly all animals that can detect electric current are living in water, for example, sharks, rays, catfish and axolotls. Echidnas get all their food on land so it is a bit of a mystery why they have electroreceptors. Echidnas may detect the electric currents produced by ants and termites in wet and moist soil. But ants and termites try to avoid wet soil so echidnas might not catch a lot of food if they rely on their electroreceptor cells. Echidnas belong to the family Tachyglossidae, and their only living relative is the platypus. Some researchers have suggested that echidnas evolved from platypuses. Playtupuses also have electroreceptors but they have many more electroreceptors compared to echidnas – 40 000 compared to 400. Platypuses spend most of their time in the water.
Why not make some great drawings of this amazing creature while you are pondering over how you can use what you know to invent the most fantastic sniff detector or . . .
Growing robots may help us explore unknown places like the Moon. Plants use growth to move and explore and even take over the environment. In contrast, animals do not grow to be able to move. Inspired by plants we can design search applications where we do not know what the environment looks like beforehand.
We could drop a seed that grows on the Moon. The seeds sprouts and the plant robot grows and starts exploring the environment. Every little crater and the mysterious polar regions could be explored. A robot that grows could overcome problems that are common when using mobile rovers which tend to get stuck in the sand. The mobile rowers have so far been based on animal models.
Designing green robos that can grow in unexplored places on our Earth is, of course, vital and robos inspired by plants that grow in water could be a great starting point for exploring the Mariana trench which is the deepest part ofEarth.
Creating a robot that uses materials in the environment to grow means a giant step from building a complete robot.
A GrowBot is a robot that functions like a plant and not only might this type of robot help us overcome certain problems it might also change the way we look at plants. It opens up new links between biology and technology.
Your garden or local park might be filled with inspiration.
“Almost every element of plant anatomy, it seems, can be turned into some kind of climbing device. The cheese plant climbs with its roots, sending them out from its nodes, the places on its stem from which leaves normally spring, and wrapping them around the trunk of its host. European ivy sprouts roots all along the underside of its stems. They are so thin that they can cling to any tiny rugosity. Honeysuckle uses its own stem, winding it around the thicker stem of others. The glory lilies of tropical Africa and Asia have elongated the tips of their leaves into little mobile wires with which they hook themselves on to any support they can find.” (Attenborough 1995:161)”
My favourite fruit is passionfruit and this plant use tendrils to cleverly saves energy by not investing energy in the growth of support tissues instead they use tendrils to wind themselves upwards to the sunlight. Their tendrils are flower buds but other plants make tendrils of leaves or shoots. The tendrils make it possible for a plant to grow up on cylindrical things, like other plants. But there is also a passionfruit, Passiflora discophora, that uses sticky pads on the ends of the tendrils to help them climb on smooth surfaces.
“If we can truly understand what it is like to be a plant, we will learn much about what it means to be a human, and how we might be ourselves in ways that work with the organic world, rather than destroying it. . . to draw on the sapience of plants in order to better comprehend the nature of our own minds.”
The new types of robots will be small and they will be growing.
Plants can also provide inspiration for repairing structures and self-growing buildings! This fascinating topic will continue in the next blog post!
Squirrels love munching on mushrooms and even poisonous ones. You can see them nibbling on the bright red toadstool and for some reason I always thought that the squirrels had stopped eating them and left a bit of a mess on the lawn. But squirrels can eat fungi that are poisonous to us humans. So the squirrels had probably just laid them out on the grass to dry for later storage in a cavity of a tree.
The bright red cap with the white scales is stunning! Yet, when talking about fungi, there is so much going on underground. The fruit body is only a part of the story, it is underground that the magic happens!
Using nature as inspiration there are now several companies around the world that are working on creating mushroom leather made from mycelium. The underground part of fungi is called the wood wide web. Fungi and plants have been connected for around 500 million years! By feeding mycellial cells waste materials like sawdust in big mushroom farms, billions of cells form a network. Big sheets of the cells can be harvested after around two weeks. And by using various methods to tan and dye the materials, you end up with something that looks like real leather.
Last year, I was working on ideas on how mushrooms could be used to transform the fashion industry. One idea was to make shoes for kids. After the feet that grown too big for the shoes, you could return the shoes back to the shop and they would send the mushroom leather shoes back to grow a size larger.
I would love to hear your ideas for mushroom leather. Mushroom furniture. . . houses. . .
I love the new book by Ed Young. A mind-blowing journey into how other animals experience our world. This book pushes you to the limit to understand our world. It challenges you to see the world through the eyes of other animals. Changing your perspective when it comes to other people’s views is not easy, but it can enhance your understanding of their position and ideas. But when it comes to stepping into the other Umwelts your mind is spinning. The Baltic-German zoologist Jakob von Uexküll referred to our Umwelt to describe the idea that we humans, like all creatures, are trapped in sensory bubbles unique to each individual. To step into the world as perceived by a mallard, mantis shrimp, or elephant, we do not know where to start.
To disregard other people’s and creatures’ perspectives can be damaging and it is also a missed opportunity. Missed opportunities to solve problems and even design inventions.
So far I have mostly dived into the world of vision. Animals see colours in so many different ways. Some see fewer colours than us, some see colours that we cannot see – infrared and ultraviolet. The mantis shrimps see a special twisted light called circularly polarised light. They use it to send special messages to each other. Despite that they have 16 different types of cones in their eyes, they are bad at telling the difference between different shades. Most humans only have 3 cone cells in their eyes.
In many parts of the world, kids are getting ready to start a new term. I made a resource inspired by colourful animals. You find it here.
Is there anything better than reading a book and listening to the buzzing bees? At last, summer has arrived and you can sit under a tree in the shade enjoying the endless questions that some books spark.
The not bad animals brilliant explores how some animals have been misunderstood. Like the spiders who really are more terrified of us and sharks that help keep the ocean healthy. A funny and playful book that also is filled with great facts about animals.
The animal world is filled with friends. Odd couples show that sometimes it is much better to be together and help each other. Explore interesting partnerships and clever ways that creatures get through every day with help from their friends. And how some friends even use their friends. Great illustrations make both these books by Sophie Corrigan real treats.
It is easy to think that we humans are special! The book Humanimal shows the interconnections of the human and animal worlds. You’ll be amazed to learn about how humans and other animals share many patterns of behaviours, like how bees vote in elections to decide where they should locate their nests.
The two books below are from Hiddelway Brock Woods. Beautifully illustrated books that are written in rhyme.
Nature is bursting with patterns and the diversity of patterns is fantastic, from leopards’ spots that merge into rosette markings as the cubs grow to shells and bumblebees with their black and yellow stripes.
Our world is often a confusing place, and we look for patterns and order to make sense of it. So what is a pattern?
We often think of patterns as something that repeats itself.
Symmetry is one type of pattern and we are surrounded by symmetry. Look at your face or body. Your left side is like your right. You can find symmetry in the face of a damselfly, a snowflake, a sunflower, or a beetle. Symmetrical objects can be divided into parts of equal shape or size. Symmetry looks naturally appealing to our eyes, and we often think that a face is beautiful when the features are symmetrical.
Kids love to ask lots of questions and this one might pop up during a walk in the countryside or local park.
Why is symmetry so prevalent?
The truth is we are not entirely sure why symmetry is so common in nature. One explanation is that for example, bilateral symmetry, which is common in animals, makes it easier for an animal to move in a certain direction. A fish swims effortlessly around compared to a seastar which has a fivefold symmetry (this symmetry was for unknown reasons developed from a bilateral seastar). Bilateral symmetry could also have been preferred since it meant that creatures could develop a spine and central nervous system.
Butterflies are often used to explore symmetry. Even young children grasp the idea that one wing looks the same as the other. A simple but engaging activity is a draw a butterfly on cardboard and then fill the wings with flowers or other natural materials to create a symmetrical pattern. Punch holes in the cardboard – make sure that the pattern is symmetrical. You can see some stunning photos here of pretty butterfly wings filled with flowers.
Or why not make a giant beetle from cardboard and fill it with natural materials found outside like sticks or pebbles – just make sure that when you are collecting materials from nature that it is fine to take home.
Nature might be filled with symmetry so it is easy to believe that everything is symmetrical. But the breaking of perfect symmetry is important in nature. This is nature’s way of making things that are the same into different things. We will look at this in another blog post.
The book Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy is a great starting point for exploring symmetry in nature. It is a visual demonstration of what symmetry is rather than a story. The book is filled with symmetrical pictures.
At the moment we are enjoying these two books. Check them out!
The Animal BFFs is written by Sophie Corrigan. Here you can read about different types of Friendships among animals: mutualism commensalism and parasitism. The natural world is filled with strange and unlikely friendships. Odd couples that highlight the idea that sometimes it’s better to work together! Funny and informative books, that will provide young biomimicrists with amazing inspiration.
The book Invented by Animals by Christiane Dorion, illustrated by Gosia Herba, is a useful book to dip into see how animals how inspired inventors. Amazing things that may challenge young kids to imagine even better and more amazing things.
Both books are warmly recommended!
Both books are also brimming with inspiration for Earth Day as well Climate Change and Sustainability projects.
What if children could learn and grow in a Sundance School – a school inspired by this remarkable plant.
When you are designing a building using sunflowers as inspiration you can use:
Visual inspiration—your design looks like a sunflower plant.
Use a principle found in nature, for example, the sunflower moves with the sun.
Ecosystem – your design will be sustainable and use environmentally friendly materials.
In Japan, a nursery was designed by the architect Kengo Kuma, he was particularly inspired by the geometry of a sunflower. Go here to have a peek at this stunning nursery.
We studied how the sunflowers track the sun across the sky.
Sunflowers turn towards the sun, and they also rotate 180 degrees during the night to greet the morning sun. The flowers track from east to west during the day. But an adult sunflower settles down and faces the east all the time.
Sun-orientating behaviours have several advantages. The side that faces the sun warms up quicker and it grows faster. The plant that faces the morning sun might be more attractive to pollinators and the sunlight may help the morning dew to evaporate quicker, reducing the susceptibility to fungal diseases.
The sunlight may also help evaporate morning dew, reducing susceptibility to fungal disease.
We also looked at the colours that we could use in the classroom – warm, golden and sunny colours. Sunflowers have been used for centuries to create a dye.
This is a work in progress, and we will use the ideas from the blog post Invent the Room to look for suitable building materials for our Sundance School. A Life-Cycle Analysis will be carried out to ensure that our school uses the best possible materials.
We will build a model of the Sundance school using recycled boxes and other materials.
Build and Nurture a Better world by reaching for the Sun filled with super Sunflower Power!
Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine. The proud flowers have throughout history been associated with power, strength, warmth and positivity. The strong resemblance to our Sun often puts a smile on our faces.
The last week we have seen pictures and videos of heartbreak but we have also met families and children that have shown bravery and resilience. Sunflowers are loved by bees and insects. Birds love munching on their seeds. These easy to grow attractive plants are loved by wildlife and children.
Sunflowers are loved by children and they can be grown in your garden or inschool. Sometimes we measure how tall a sunflower has grown but this focus misses the point. Beauty and friendship cannot and shouldn’t be measured.
Positive peace is associated with a focus on building a more sustainable future. To achieve a positive peace we need to nurture our resilience.
Nature is resilient to disturbances and nature has the capacity to absorb disturbances and still keep its basic functions, and structure. Yet, resilience usually has a limit. If there is too great disturbances, nature losses its ability to make the necessary corrections.
You’ll find resilience everywhere in nature. And you can learn a lot about nature as well as human resilience if you look for an example of resilience in your local area. Identify and explore how nature uses diversity, redundancy, decentralization, self-renewal, and self-repair to enable resilience.
Researchers are now on their way to unlocking the genetic key to sunflower resilience.
“How do sunflowers grow in the desert? Wild sunflowers display extensive variation, both between and within species, and scientists have now reported that variation is preserved by blocks of “supergenes” that permit adaptation to different environments.” University of Georgia
“Hello, little seed, striped gray seed. Do you really know everything about sunflowers?
My hoe breaks apart the clods of brown earth, but you do the real work down in the dark.
Not radish work or pumpkin, not thistle work – sunflower work. All the instructions are written in your heart.”
From the book To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson and Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Why not plant some Sunflower seeds this Spring?
Plant the seeds for Peace.
Plant them to learn from Nature.
Plant Sunflower seeds to help us build a resilient world with a heart!
P.S. Look at the bees in the photo above. Think about how bees work together. . .
What a spectacular programme! And great accompanying books.
New camera techniques have made it possible to dive into the world of plants with images that really make you feel more connected to plants. The Green Planet shows plants like you have never seen them before – new and surprising insights. The series focuses on the relationships plants share with the world around them.
Some of the plants and the animals felt like old friends. The series may have captured their lives in a way that make it easier to really dive into their worlds. The leaf-cutting ants are for example included in the resource about Ants Life Cycle, yet, the series really provides a great insight into how ants not only carry pieces back to their nests but also how they use the leaves as compost. The leaves are too tough for the ants to eat.
Check out the children’s book! Great way to gain a deeper understanding of the hidden world of plants.
“Is this the biggest tree in the park. . . the forest. . . or the whole world?
We may hear kids being impressed by trees, plants and animals and that is great. But we can also support kids to notice and be impressed by the variety of different types of trees, plants, and animals that live in your garden, or local park.
Biodiversity is the variety of life in an area or ecosystem and a great outdoor science activity to do with kids is to explore more in-depth the ecosystem in your garden, schoolyard or local park. Trees, shrubs and plants will be growing in the area and insects, birds and perhaps small animals will visit the area.
Biodiversity changes with the season in an area. Where we live there are fewer flowers and birds in the garden during the winter months. In the spring and summer months, the garden is bursting with flowers that attract a huge variety of insects.
Spend some time together and enjoy counting the types of plants, animals and fungi that you can see. Also, count the number of each species. Wait a couple of weeks and then make count the number of species and the number of each species. You can calculate the biodiversity index by dividing the number of species by the number of each species. It is fascinating to see how the index might change depending on the season and also on where you are making the count.
Here is a great book about biodiversity.
In the video below David Attenborough talks about why we need nature and what we can do to conserve biodiversity.
A couple of weeks ago I was looking for books about trees for children. I was so excited when I found a picture book by Peter Wohlleben the author of The Hidden Life of Trees. In that book, he shares how trees communicate, feel and grow. Go here to read a blog post inspired by his book.
In the children’s book, Peter is writing a fictionalized version of himself as a naturalist who is talking to a lonely orphaned squirrel. Peter and the squirrel Piet start searching for tree children. Peter says that you can’t be lonely in a forest full of friends. The book is a reminder of the importance of preserving natural forests. A forest is home a many creatures.
Peter shares wonderful facts about trees as they wander around in the forest. They meet all sorts of creatures, from a family of caterpillars to a magnificent hawk. Peter talks about how the trees communicate and care for each other. Piet, the squirrel, begins to feel better when he realises that the beechnuts he has hidden and forgotten all about has turned into beech children.
“The most beautiful forest of tree children ever. And we found it.”
The message in the book is that trees need the protection of taller trees to survive and grow old. I like the book, but in contrast to his bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees, I do not love it. Writing for a younger audience is not easy and I do think that more amazing content about trees and their families could have been woven into the story. The last page has some interesting facts that you can use to further explore the exciting lives of tree families.
Peter has also written a book for older children – Can You Hear the Trees Talking. This book introduces children to interesting and fun facts about trees. Also, there are suggestions for outdoor activities and quizzes.
How trees talk to each other – the wood wide web
Why trees are important in the city
How trees make us healthy and strong
How trees get sick, and how we can help them get better
This book makes a lovely gift for curious nature lovers!
Children are driven by curiosity! What can be more exciting than discovering the microscopic world?
A microscope is a super tool for encouraging children to love biology and also to develop their observational skills. Despite a fascination for tiny organisms, I must admit I was not quite prepared for the voyage that filmmaker Jan van IJken takes you to in his short film Planktonium. A journey to a secret universe that is right here on our planet, yet, it is a world filled with alien-like creatures.
The beautiful organisms are invisible to the naked eye but they can be found beneath the surface of waters around us. They might be tiny but the organisms play a vital role in all life on Earth. The small plant-like cells, phytoplankton, produce half of all the oxygen on earth, while the zooplankton forms the base for the food chain in the sea.
Plankton plays a vital role in the global carbon cycle. Sadly they are threatened by global changes as well as the acidification of the oceans.
Visually this is a spectacular film, brilliant coloured blob and strange-looking monsters with gigantic eyes. But that is not all, the sound adds another layer. Norwegian artist Jana Winderen recorded sounds deep underwater and this makes this strange world really come to life.
I love how the film is shot like a journey into space – there are images moving against a black background. This highlights the beauty and also that just like a journey into space, most of this world we do not understand. A great challenge for young children to embrace!
A fun way to start exploring plankton is to make some drawings! This film is a lovely starting point. Enjoy!
A couple of weeks ago I attended an online session organised by Plantlife about grassland and waxcap fungi.
Members of the Hygrophoraceae family, commonly known as waxcaps, are beautiful and often colourful mushrooms. They come in a rainbow of colours from bright rich scarlets and lemon yellow to purples and greens and pink. They glow like little gems in the grass. Their colours are often used in their common names, for example, pink ballerina, snowy waxcap, crimson waxcap, golden waxcap, and the colourful parrot waxcap. Perfect inspiration for storywriting!
Waxcaps can be found in gardens and grassy spaces in towns. You can also spot these stunning fungi in the countryside. Waxcaps are a indicator of species rich grassland. They are becoming rarer since they prefer old, undistrubed grassland, which stores a third of the world’s land-based carbon.
Old meadows and grassland are important in the fight against climate change. Grassland provid protection from soil erosion, carbon loss, and can encourage greater biodiversity. Often the focus is on trees when exploring nature-based solutions to climate change. But grassland can store even more carbon than forests so it is a wonderful nature-based solution in the fight against climate change.
The first word in the English dictionary is Aardvark. A charming mammal that looks like they were made from parts of other animals.
Aardvarks are nocturnal burrowing animals that are found throughout Africa, south of the Sahara. The aardvark’s body and long snout look a bit like a pig and their name comes from South Africa’s Afrikaans language and means “earth pig.” This keystone species has a kangaroo tail and long rabbitlike ears. It has a very long tongue, 30 cm, which it uses to lick up ants and termites. And its closest relative may come as a big surprise since it is the elephant!
A keystone species has a large effect on its natural environment. Other keystone species are, for example, elephants, whales, and wolves. The aardvark uses its sharp claws and powerful legs to dig out the hills. It also digs to make burrows where they live and raise their young. They can dig very fast, 0. 6 m in 15 seconds. Other animals like African wild dogs take over the olds burrows after the aardvark. So they play an important part in the exosystem.
Aardvarks are also spreading seeds from a plant called Aardvark cucumber or Aardvark pumpkin. The plants rely on the aardvark to eat the fruit in order to spread and re-bury the seeds of the plant. The plant is a rare type of plant that flowers underground, just like a peanut. The fruits are first developing above the ground on stalks. The stalks bend and are pushed back under the ground. The aardvark eats the plant to get water.
My main question after having watched the videos below is why the aardvark snuffles in its sleep. What do you think?
Fiction and non-fiction books about aardvarks
Have you read any of the books about Arthur? He is a famous aardvark character. Oi Aardvark is another awesome book featuring aardvarks.
Sleeping like a dolphin has its advantages! Would it not be wonderful to rest one of your brain hemispheres at a time and to sleep with one eye open.
Dolphins are fascinating and they are a wonderful source of inspiration for ideas related to their superpowers whether it is echolocation, communication, streamlined body shape, or sleep pattern.
Despite the lack of complete sleep, unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS) does not give dolphins any problems with their health or memory. Their immune system, brain plasticity, brain energy metabolism, and thermoregulation help them to compensate for the lack of complete sleep. One half of the brain is in deep sleep and the eye corresponding to this half is closed while the other half is awake and the eye remains open.
A great way to observe animals sleeping with an eye open is to study birds in your garden or in the local park. Birds look really cute when they are sleeping with one eye open. Threats in the environment, as well as specific requirements, have led to the evolution of asymmetrical sleep. Dolphins for example need to go up to the surface to breathe.
Under some circumstances, it seems that even we humans exhibit a similar sleeping style, for example when we experience troubles sleeping in a new location. This is called the first night effect. When we are familiar with a place, we can enjoy a deep night’s sleep. I love how our observations of animals such as dolphins have helped us gain a deeper understanding of the way we humans sleep.
The best inspiration apart from spending time in nature is picture books. I am passionate about all sorts of books and children’s books are no different. Wonderful pictures, exciting stories, and silly rhymes are the best way to get ideas. The best picture books contain plenty of opportunities for learning, yet it does not feel like learning.
Save Our Species: Endangered Animals and How You Can Save Them by Dominic Couzens
This is a stunning practical guide to understanding and preserving 30 plants and animals that are on the decline in Britain. The book is brimming with information about well-loved creatures such as hedgehogs, puffins, and nightingales. Species that sadly has been in decline in the UK since the 1950s and 1960s.
With beautiful illustrations from Sarah Edmonds, lesser-known British animals such as the pink sea fan, and the grey long-eared bat are also included. I love that this book offers suggestions on what we need to do to help the animals so that they have the best chance of survival.
Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature: Amazing Animals and the Magical Creatures of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts by The Natural History Museum
Wow! This book is a real treat and a book that I will return to again and again. It is will delight both naturalists and Harry Potter fans. The perfect combination of both. The book explores the magical creatures from J.K.Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as the mythological and real creatures of our Muggle world.
A range of experts and conservationists begins each chapter with an essay written about the creature. Filled with spectacular information and wonderful pictures and illustrations. The book is inspiared by an exhibition at the National History Museum in London.
Wild City: Meet the animals who share our city spaces by Ben Hoare
Wildlife is all around us even if you live in a city. Many animals live close to our doorsteps and this amazing book introduces some of the wildlife that you can find in urban settings. Amazing detailed illustrations by Lucy Rose transports you to the often hidden wildlife that thrives in big cities. Learn about why Cape Towns attract lots of sea life. Do you know where reptiles like to stay in Bangkok?
A new school term and perhaps time to introduce Biomimicry to your students!
“Biomimicry builds off of a child’s natural curiosity, and it allows students to discover how things (evolved into) its current state. It allows students to see the differences and similarities in nature. It allows learners to become heroes of their own learning… and allows diverse learners to reflect on the past to find solutions to present situations.” — Billy Almon
Here is a video from the Biomimicry Institute that explains how biomimicry can offer an effective, engaging, and inspiring framework for STEAM education while empowering students to think differently about nature and their future.
Bringing nature into the classroom, whether at home, school or virtually online, offers a way to explore what can be learnt from the schoolyard, local park or garden. It allows children to work together to solve prolbmes and to be creative. The perfect way to mix art and science by using natural materials such as leaves, flowers, seedheads, and pinecones. An opportunity to use the five sense and explore shapes and patterns in nature.
Give your students Biomimicrylicious Time this term!
Nature works by relying on some deep patterns, and Life’s Principles are design lessons from nature. It is a framework that can help us when we are exploring nature. This is done by focusing on one of the six principles at a time. People who work with creating nature-inspired solutions are familiar with these principles and the principles help us discover nature’s forms, processes as well as systems. It is a language that helps us to describe a range of biological phenomena.
Below is an image of the principles and as you can see they can be quite overwhelming for young students. Yet, exploring some of the principles will help students to develop a deeper understanding of nature and ultimately help them get wonderful ideas, develop sustainable solutions, and mind-blowing inventions.
One way of introducing the principles is to let the students write their own principles based on their observations. We used a similar approach when we wrote the Regenerative Travel Principles for our contribution to the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge.
Cooperate like wandering gliders: Cultivate cooperation and connect with people whilst travelling.
The Life Principle to be resource-efficient is perfect to explore when discussing recycling, reducing, and reusing (today recover or redesign are often added as a fourth R). When we study nature it is also perhaps more accurate to talk about upcycling. Often several organisms, or ecosystems of organisms, break down complex organic materials into smaller molecules that are then used by other organisms and reassembled into new materials.
Fungi and bacteria break down dead organisms. They help recycle minerals and nutrients, which can be used by other organisms. Nature’s recyclers come in many forms and many of these can be found in the local park or schoolyard. Young students love watching snails, slugs, and beetles. Mushroom and lichen are endlessly enchanting. Each of these recyclers has its own job in the decomposition process.
Using slugs as inspiration to explore the principles Use Life- Friendly Chemistry may inspire ideas such as:
Break down materials like slugs break down leaves: Find new ways of using things.
Spring has arrived with bats, butterflies, nest-building! Weekends and school holidays are spent at the beach. Ice creams, sunhats, and sandcastles are part of a visit to the beach. But can a visit to the beach involve biomimicry?
Biomimicry is the conscious observation of the natural world. The observations can be used to solve problems. Travelling is lovely but tourism is also a huge problem.
Animals that travel often have a positive impact on the place they visit. Every year millions of animals migrate. Migrations are impressive and often animals travel thousands of miles by land, sea, or air. But migration also has a vital role to play in the ecosystem and it affects the distribution of prey and predators and keeps nutrients cycling around the planet. Plants and fungi also travel, pollen and seeds are spread by land, sea, and air.
“Among their many ecological roles, whales recycle nutrients and enhance primary productivity in areas where they feed.” They do this by feeding at depth and releasing fecal plumes near the surface—which supports plankton growth—a remarkable process described as a “whale pump.” Whales also move nutrients thousands of miles from productive feeding areas at high latitudes to calving areas at lower latitudes.” Phys org
Sustainable travelling means that you try not to harm the natural environments. But travelling and a visit to the beach can also be regenerative. Regenerative travelling means that you give something back to the place that you visit.
“If being “green” is about doing less damage and “sustainability” is about reaching net neutral, “regeneration” is about making things better. Better for the environment and better for the community.”Globetrender
Engage, learn and interact with the place you visit. Explore the natural area using your senses. What does the place look like? Sounds like? Can you make a positive impact on the place? Can you leave it better than you found it? A place might look better if you pick up plastic waste on the beach. Buying sourvenirs is often part of a travel experience. Check where souvenirs are made and how they are made before you buy them.
Journal your travel experience and explore ways to leave a positive impact on places you visit. What can you do?
And more importantly what is the best ice cream from a regenerative traveller’s perspective?
Fungi to flamingo, plants to animals – the variety of life on our planet is wonderful.
Biodiversity is the name we give to the variety of all life on Earth. The term is complex to grasp but it is this complexity that makes our planet the perfect place for us humans as well as plants, bacteria, fungi and animals.
We use the biodiversity in nature to make and create things but the biodiversity is also a source of information from which biomimicrists can draw inspiration. Without the species richness there would be little gems of seeds to spark ideas for biomimicrists.
Tropical rainforests and coral reefs are among the most diverse biomes on our plant and a wonderful source of inspiration. Yet the loss of biodiversity can speed up extinction and today around 1 million plants and animals face extinction. The more biodiversity there is the more stable an ecosystem is.
Climate change is a driver of loss of biodiversity but the loss of biodiversity also contributes to climate change. If we destroy forests, we emit carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change. Studying the environment and biodiversity goes hand in hand.
Looking at biodiversity in your own garden, choosing a local endangered species or focussing on a global threat to biodiversity are great ways to enhance awareness of the richness of our world and also what will happen if we lose it.
Why not make an action plan, a poster or a podcast where you promote your ideas to save biodiversity in your local area or . . .
This book looks stunning. It has not been published yet but you can pre-order it.
“This beautiful book will help you explore the five oceans on our planet, meeting the creatures who live there and finding out just how their incredible surroundings work. From tides and currents, to migrations and conservation, see our oceans in action and learn how you can help to save them. This is a great follow-up to the very successful A Cat”s Guide to the Night Sky, as it introduces young readers to our oceans, the underwater wildlife and the natural phenomena that take place as well as discussing the challenges we”re currently facing and what we can do to help save our big blue world. The book contains a glossary and is suitable for children aged 6+.
Written by expert author Catherine Barr, who previously worked as the Greenpeace Sea Turtle campaigner, and with gorgeous artwork from celebrated illustrator Brendan Kearney, this is a must-have for all young readers.”
I am looking forward to reading this book, while I wait for the book about turtles to be published. Winter is the perfect time for stargazing.
“If you look up at the sky on a dark night, what do you see? There’s a whole universe staring back at you. In the company of Felicity the cat discover the phases of the moon, the constellations and how to spot the Northern Lights and the Milky Way.
This beautiful, fun book will introduce you to the beauty of the night sky and show you the stars like you’ve never seen them before.”
Below is a selection of books about Climate Change that are perfect to use at home or in the classroom. Biomimicrists believe that it is vital to explore solutions to problems and the focus should always been on exploring how nature can inspire solutions and new innovations. Check out my materials for young children that focus on using nature as inspiration even for complex problems like climate change. The idea is to plant seeds of hope and inspire creative and critical thinking.
Climate Crises for Beginners by Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds illustrated by Primo Ramon
The climate crisis is real. It is already changing the world around us. This book uses simple language and vivid illustrations to explain complex questions clearly. How does the climate work? What are we doing to change it? What can we do differently to avoid the worst outcomes? Why do we all find change so hard? The climate crisis is a troubling and sensitive topic, especially for children, so the book includes vital tips on how to set realistic goals and not get overwhelmed by bad news.
Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet by Kate Pankhurst
Tackle the plastic problem with Isatou Ceesay by recycling waste into beautiful objects. Marvel at the intelligence of chimpanzees with Jane Goodall. Learn why it’s important to shop fair trade and cruelty-free with Anita Roddick and The Body Shop. Resist devastating deforestation and plant seeds of change with Wangari Maathai.
We’re in an age when young people like Greta Thunberg are calling for those in power to ‘wake up’ and take action. But everyone has a part to play. Written with hope and encouragement, this book shows that all actions, big and small, can be powerful in the fight against climate breakdown.
How do you keep surfaces clean without using lots of water and chemicals? And how do you save time cleaning your house so that you can enjoy reading books?
Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that have leaves that have been modified to trap prey. The pitfall traps are a deep cavity filled with liquid and the plants lure their prey with nectar down the trap.
The walls of pitcher plants is filled with a flaky, waxy substance that is rough. The plants prevent insects from escaping by clogging their feet with the substance.
Inspired by the Nepenthes pitcher plant, or monkey cups, the company spotLESS Materials has developed a spray that coats materials that makes them repel liquid, sludge, bacteria, mineral deposits, and more. The spray helps surfaces like toilets clean and it reduces the amount of water and cleaning chemicals needed to keep surfaces clean.
The peristome of the Nepenthes pitcher plant is extremely slippery when infused with water or nectar so the plant that catch and ingest insects that touch their surface of the plant peristome.
A New Year’s Day tradition is to watch Vienna Philharmonic Concert. At this year’s concert the guest conductor Riccardo Muti talks about joy, hope, peace, brotherhood, and “Love” with capital “L,”. The world needs to consider culture as one of the primary pre-measure elements to help build a better society in the future, he says.
Music, art and drama are vital ingredients that are often overlooked when it comes to ways to build a better society. During what seems like endless months of lockdowns, suspicious coughs and colds, I have returned to listening more to music and I have let ideas about how to use nature in the classroom rest a bit.
Just before Christmas, I was asked to talk about Biomimicry in Education at the Université Côte d’Azur. The students studied Marine Biology and read a course about biomimicry. As part of the course, some students have made a very engaging Biomimicry Game. Great idea!
After my short presentation, delivered via the 2020s most popular technology Zoom, someone asked me if I thought that young students could come up with ideas.
The question made me reflect on the way I use nature to inspire kids to be creative and if Biomimicry really works.
Reflecting on your ideas is always important and I have also thought about whether biomimicry really offers a way to help build a better society.
Feedback from teachers says that their students have really enjoyed using the materials that I create, admittedly, not every teacher provides feedback. Most of my materials are open-structured and rely on allowing teachers and students to explore nature together by making observations, asking questions and using their observations to solve problems or create wonderous inventions.
Perhaps this approach is after all more adventurous than I think. Yet, for me, it is one way to inspire kids to think as well as develop a love for nature. And teaching kids to think is vital and ultimately should always be one of the goals of teaching.
Why not introduce Biomimicry in your home or classroom in 2021?
Wow, loved this book! A big surprised when the parcel arrived because I had not expected a Big Book! I know the clue is in the title but a book can be big in lots of different ways. And this is a book that is large in size as well as big on information. Perfect inspiration for budding biomimicrists and marine biologists.
Each page in this book by Yuval Zommer is filled with beautiful illustrations. You will love learning about flying fish, crabs, dophins, dragonets and other fish and living creatures that call our oceans their home.
The animals may have cartoon eyes so you might be tempted to thinking that this book is only for younger children. Yet, it is a very educational book brimming with interesting facts such as “Beak-like teeth help a pufferfish to prise open mussel and clam shells”.
Our heads were brimming with ideas after browsing around in this lovely book.
The pretty cool snowl owl are famous for being a bit magical. Harry Potter’s pet owl Hedwig proved over and over again that she was a bit better than the rest of the owls at the wizard’s school.
There are Paleolithic paintings in the Chauvet cave in France depicting owls alongside prehistoric lions and horses so we have always thought that owls are brilliant. The first painted owl might have been a horned owl but there are other examples of what might be the beautiful white bird.
Many animals adapt in different ways for the colder months. Snowy owls love winter and their white feathers on their feet look like fluffy slippers. The fluffy feets are perfect when you want to hunt on snowcovered and cold grounds. Males have lots of white feathers that protects them from the cold Arctic winds while the emales have darts of brown feathers. Many animals that live in a cold climate change dramatically, like the Artic Fox, but the snowy owls only get a little darker in spring and summer.
Like many animals the snow owls might need to change due the climate change. Less snow means that the stunning birds might stand out too much for the wrong reasons so perhaps they will develop darker plumage.
Snowy owls have special feathers that have fringes. This means that it is very difficult to hear them when they are hunting. They also have keen eyesight and great hearing, which help them to detect prey. The amazing owl’s wings have inspired inventions such as an effecient and quiet fan.
Snowy owls, like all animals have to work hard to survive, but animals also enjoy playing and relaxing. Love this video of a snowy owl enjoying a relaxing time on . One of my absolute favourite video 2020.
Snowy owls have yellow eyes and they prefer to hunt during the daytime. You can read more about the colours of owls’ eyes here. Fascinating!
Nature is an endless source of inspiration. Strategies, functions and design solutions developed for billions of years can be explored. Observering nature as well as collecting ideas and thoughts are a vital part of the biomimicry process. Inspired by Carla Sonheim we used watercolours to do some notetakings about snowy owls, see the featured pictured. We used the video below to help us draw a snowy owl.
Here is some books about nature that caught our eyes. Books to be cherished for years and enjoying by the whole family. Books filled with prehistoric pets, strange looking animals and plants, lovely poems as well as mesmering spells.
Perfect Christmas gifts!
From the inspired pairing behind the award-winning The Lost Words comes a luminous hymn to nature and language adorned with Jackie Morris’s exquisite illustrations of beloved woodland creatures.
Perfect for reading aloud the book summons back what is often lost from sight and care. Great for sharpening biomimicry observation skill. The books celebrates a sens of wonder and is fille dwith agical spells about Barn Owl, Red Fox, Grey Seal, Silver Birch, Jay and Jackdaw. Be amazed and filled with joy over the amazing natural world.
Penguins like all animals and plants have developed brilliant ways to survive. Penguins can be found in a cold as well as a warm climate. And they deal with the climate challenges in different ways, penguin chicks in Antarctica learn to skate on the ice whereas Galápagos penguin chicks are masters of sliding on rocks.
Changes in our climate may turn penguins into climate refugees.
Changes in the climate could force the penguins to move, look for new types of food and search for new nesting habitats. Warming seas could change the abundance of penguins’ prey, resulting in changes in the composition of their diets. Many species of penguins nest on cold on dry snow but warming climate could result in rain, or prematurely melting snowfall, creating puddles on the ground. Chicks lacking rainproof feathers could become wet and die from hypothermia even if the place is warmer.
What superpowers would penguins need to survive? And what can we learn?
You find the booklet here and a bundle with climate change resources here.
David Attenborough’s latest book ” A Life on Our Planet – My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future” explores some of the most important challenges that face our planet. He writes about the changes that have taken place during his life and he describes some of the biggest mistakes that we have made.
Also, David has a strong message about hope for a brighter future and he explores ways that we can act now so that we can put it right.
I was happy to read that Biomimicry is mentioned as a way to find solutions to some of the problems that faces us.
”Biologist Janine Benysus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, wishing to provoke the new green approach to city planning, has set all cities a challenge. She suggests that, since a city occupies spaces that was once natural habit, it should at least equal that habitat in terms of the environmental services that it once provided – the solar energy it generated, the fertility it added to the sois, the volume of air it cleaned, the water it produced, the carbon that it captured and the biodiversity it hosted. Architects appear keen to take on her challenge.”
It is possible to acheive much more if we work together. Let’s start now.
The dream was to write a series of books about Theo & Tuva and now the outline for the second book is taking shape. 2020 has been a year filled with challenges, new challenges, but also old familiar problems have been lurking in the background. Greta Thunberg and young climate activistists have not given up and they provide inspiration for characters new adventures.
Thanks to human-caused climate change, countless plants and animals will need to move in order to survive. Climate migration may be disruptive for humans but many animals and plants will not have the options that are open to us.
Svalbald is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. Theo & Tuva marvel at the untouched arctic wilderness and unique wildlife with polar bears and seals while they reflect on the impact of climat change. They will visit the seed vault that is designed to protect the world’s plant life.
Plants adapted to living in the Artic may be in real trouble. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other places on Earth and plants there will not be able to move further north to find new places to grow where there is no competions by shrubs and trees that have adapted to the warmer temperatures. The plants can try to migrate up to the mounsides but eventually they will reach the top or simply run out of land and reach the Arctic Ocean.
How can we help the plants?
Plants have developed surviving strategies for millions of years and if we loose them we might lose the insight to wonderful and useful solutions to problems. Plants are an essential source of food and medicines and we simply to do know the value of many of the different species. So saving plants is vital for our own survival and if we loose plants due to climate change we may loose species that are valuable to us.
A revolutionary insight from the early 1800s came to the the explorer Alexander von Humboldt while he was climbing the soaring Ecuadorian volcano Chimborazo in 1802.
“Not long after his descent from the mountain,” Appenzeller writes, “he sketched a spectacular diagram that used the slopes of Chimborazo to depict a concept that had crystallized during his climb: that climate is an organizing principle of life, shaping the distinct communities of plants and animals found at different altitudes and latitudes. Two centuries later, that idea is giving scientists an intellectual framework for understanding how human-driven climate change is transforming life. “
Here’s von Humboldt’s illustration:
In an 1807 illustration of the volcanoes Chimborazo and Cotopaxi in Equador, Alexander von Humboldt mapped vegetation living at different elevations. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Plenty of things to explore and ponder about. Yet it important to provide hope for children. I read an article the other day about the impact of environmental books on children. There has been a boom in books about plastic waste, endangered widllife, eco-warriors, and climate change. Many of these books inspire action rather than despair and many children are genuinely interested in climate change and envioronmental issues, even young children.
The wonderful thing about biomimicry is that the focus is an finding creative solutions to problems or to invent wonderful things.
Biomimicry is an awesome way to capture children’s imagination without terrifying them away from enviromental issues.
“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.” Greta Thunberg
Here is two great books that will inspire kids to be environmentally responsible. The books can be used as a stepping stone for discussions about how to use biomimicry to help us create a more sustainable future.
The books focus on different aspects of saving the planet and taking environmental responsibility.
A Symphony of Whales
This book is based on an actual event. Read about how Glashka and her people come to understand what really matters in life. Glasha disover thousands of whales trapped in a freezing inlet och it is up to her to gather people of her town to help the pod.
A couple of days ago hundreds of pilot whales stranded on a beach in Tasmania, Australia. Use this to further explore compassion and teamwork.
The Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation. The true tale of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay sends an important and strong message about recyling.
Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but there was never any option for poor children until the music teacher Favio Chávez arrives. He gave the children instruments made from materials found in the trash. Such a wonderful idea – an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from recycled trash.
Recycling is a great idea, yet, it is becoming more and more clear that it is not enough.
“More recycling doesn’t always mean more sustainability or less emissions.” Zero Waste Europe
Explore ways that nature uses materials. Natures upcycles rather than recycle materials.
“In nature, one organism’s waste or decomposing body becomes a source of food and materials for other organisms. While we talk about “recycling,” “upcycling” is a more accurate description of what happens in nature.” Biomimicry Org
Spent some lovely days last week beachcombing. Lots of shells, most of them tiny, glittering in the sand on the tidal shore. Also, lots of sea weed that looked like bubble wrap with their distinctive air bubbles. The air sacks are known as air bladders, which give the algae its name – bladderwrack.
Bladder wrack has round air bladders/bubbles.
Why does the seaweed have these air bubbles?
It is always an eye-opener to spend time quietly, observing nature. Shared discoveries on the beach gives the greatest pleasure. An important part of developing curiosity and a love for nature. A curious child feels safe to explore questions. A secure child will be excited with the wonders of nature. And she or he will explore and ask hundreds of questions.
Making a drawing of treasures found at the beach can help a child develop a deeper understanding. Drawing makes you look closely and discover things that you might have missed before.
Sea weed like bladder wrack provides shelter for many different creatures and it is also a source of food. The air bubbles helps the algae exhange gases and absorb nutrients when submerged.
While sketching a drawing, wonderful ideas of how we could use air bubbles might emerge. Like a a floating device.
Today, there is an enormous need to develop sustainable solutions. Initial ideas can be explored to ensure that they use sustainable resources in the production, that they are transported in a sustainable way. Innovations and solutions to problems should help us create a better future for all living creatures on Earth.
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 constuct these special solar and wave panels.
Meet the photographer to the book Biomimicry with Theo & Tuva”- Ann-Margrethe.
Here she practising “Biomimicry Ballet”. A wonderfully healthy way to experience nature while pondering over ideas inspired by nature.
That children who understand nature are better at taking care of it is perhaps not so strange. Some children lack experience of nature and then nature becomes frightening instead of a source of inspiration and a quiet peaceful place for recovery.
Biomimicry is a fantastic tool for making young people understand the secrets of nature. Spending time in the garden, a park or the forest is a wonderful way to stop and reflect. Use the inspiration to play with ideas. Developing sustainable innovations inspired by nature is necessary for our survival.
The first day of Autumn, at least in meteorological terms, but the changes in the natural world such as the fantastic colourful autumn leaves display may still wait.
A perfect time to study unique microhabitats where you live – under bushes, on stony path or under a log or big branch.
Listen to Arvolyn Hill as she explores the habitat that formed under a log in a garden in the Bronx. I love the promts that are used when exploring life under a log. All you need to add is a prompt, a biomimicry prompt to spark ideas.
How can the observations be used to invent something magical, useful and sustainable? Or solve a problem?
I picked the chestnuts on the street while walking my dog this morning. Autumn is almost here and the dark couds that covered the sky promised rain. Heavy rain.
The horse chestnut is a stunning tree that is originally native to the mountains of northern Greece and Albania. It was introduced to the UK in the late 16th century. I love the hand-shaped, palmate leaves with five to seven toothed leaflets and its spiny-shelled fruits, the conkers. They are like magical treasures carefully hiding their secrets.
Both sweet chestnut and horse chestnut contain the word nut but what is hidden inside the spiky coverings is actually a seed. A nut is defined as an enclosed seed with a hard uter shell that does not open naturally to release the seed. Last year we grow physalis in the garden, also called cape gooseberries, they have a fruit with multiple seeds. After the seeds have released the latern skeletons remain on the plant. A fun fruit to gow with children. Planning for next year’s season have already started!
Noticing little things in your neighbourhood is a great way to spark an interest in nature and biomimicry.
Yesterday I listened to another Biomimicry Fireside Chats. This time the theme was Transforming Education: Fostering Students’ Connection with Nature.
Several links to books that can be used to encourage an interest in biomimicry was mentioned in the chat. Here are a couple that I have added to my wish list for this autumn.
While I browsed around for books I found this which looks great. . . and reminded me of a blog post on Sparking Children’s Thinkiblity. Check it out.
Why is biodiversity important? How to increase biodiversity using BIOMIMICRY?
In the film, The Birds produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock the focus is on a series of sudden and unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California. A classic horror film, however, the true horror is perhaps a world without birds.
My newest resource for Google Classroom uses endangered birds as inspiration. This is not the first time that I have used endangered animals or plants as inspiration for ideas. Using endangered animals or plants as inspiration for ideas highlights the importance of protecting nature.
Bird diversity is important. Biodiversity is the total variety of all life on Earth. Why is greater biodiversity a good thing? The more biodiversity the more secure is all life on Earth including ourselves.
“The total biodiversity on our planet is immense.” David Attenborough
Yet, many species are endangered.
“Over 1,450 bird species are considered globally threatened because they have small and declining populations or ranges. Of these, 222 are Critically Endangered and face an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. Threatened birds are found throughout the world, but are concentrated in the tropics and especially in forests. Population declines may be quick and catastrophic, but even small increases in mortality can threaten the survival of some species.” Bird Life International
Even if biodiversity is seen as a solution and every species is a source of potentially untapped information, we still need to use a creative as well as a critical approach to thinking and creative tools to tap into the knowledge of nature. There is no ready solution that will lead to an instant solution.
Some biomimicry solutions have not been sustainable, for example, the velcro has contributed to the environment mostly in the form of non-biodegradable landfills.
The story of the magnificent flightless fat parrot, Kakapo, offers hope. The bird is critically endangered but intense intervention in every stage of the bird’s life has to lead to an increase in numbers. It was on the brink of extinction in the min 1990s when there were only around 50 birds.
The bird is nocturnal and exploring the way kakapos move around in the darkness can lead to some interesting ideas. They have a jog-like gait and they parachute to the ground from high trees using their wings (they cannot fly). Kiwi, another flightless bird, lacks wings, but the kakapos have wings. The feathers are softer than the feathers of other parrots as they do not need to be strong for flying.
What cool things can you invent inspired by Kakapos? Can you make sure that the invention is sustainable?
Hurry out to sun with a pile of books. Or cuddle up on the sofa while you watch raindrops siding down the window panes at the same time as you flick through pages filled with exquisite and colourful fungi, animals and plants.
Some books about nature that caught our eyes. Perfect books for lazy summer’s days.
The smallest of the armadillo family is a fascinating species that like so many animals on our planet is endangered. The animal is nicknamed sand digger and according to stories it can”burrow through the ground as fast as a fish can swim in the sea”. It might be difficult to believe that this cute looking animal exists, it looks like a weasel dressed in an ice cream cone!
The Armadillo is a Spanish word meaning “little armoured one” and the salmon-coloured pink fairy armadillo with its sharp claws is the perfect inspiration for a character in a biomimicry story. Writing a biomimicry inspired story is a great way to explore functions and gain deeper insight into an animal’s lives and special adaptations.
Identifying the function is at a core when you engage in biomimicry with young children. Creating a creature build of different animals may help a young child to explore how special pink fairy armadillos digging skills are. They are nocturnal and spend their nights burrowing in the sands of central Argentina with their enormous claws. They pat the sand behind them into a compact tunnel with a butt plate that resembles a spatula.
Create your own character for story or comic strip.
What is its name?
What kind of habitat will it live in?
What problems is the character facing?
What things can you invent inspired by the creature?
Facts about Pink Fairy Armadillo
The armadillo is about 9 cm to 11.5 cm long and it is so tiny that it fits into your hand. The pink fairy armadillo lives in Argentina and other areas in South America. It is threatened by destruction of its habitat and by domestic dogs who can break their shell.
Armadillos has bony plates that cover their back, head, legs, and tail. They are the only living mammals that wear such shells. The shells are made of bony plates that grow in the skin. The shell protects them from thorny shrubs where they like to hide from predators. Armadillos have provided inspiration for body armour. Yet, the shell is perhaps not like an armour since it can easily break if a predator gets to them. The shell works more like a hard-shelled suitcase.
They have tiny eyes and rely on hearing and touch to navigate. The pink fairy armadillo has large claws that are so big that it is hindering their ability to walk on hard surfaces.
Sustainability is rarely explored in the lower grades, yet, I think it can be introduced by using engaging activities that provide children with hope for the future while at the same time inspire a love and fascination for nature. Nature produces materials without mining, produces power without pollution, and reuses materials. Children can learn from nature and develop strategies to design a world that is long-lasting.
This project-based learning unit is inspired by the popular “Write the Room”. The idea behind “Invent the Room” is to provide students with opportunities to explore the objects in the room from a sustainability and biomimicry perspective.
Children are asked to carry out a Life Cycle Analysis of an object in the room. Then the task is to make the production, transportation and disposal of the thing more sustainable. Included in the resource are inspirations about how to use animals and plants to design or invent things.
Perfect for exploring the classroom, in school or at home. Engaging science resource to welcome students back to school.
Picking a Dandelion head, making a wish and blowing the puff into the air, watching as the little white fluff float away on a light breeze is a lovely way to experience a bit a nature’s magic taking place.
Many people regard the dandelions as weed but it can also be seen as a wildflower since it grows in the wild. Dandelions are rich in pollen and nectar and provide a great source of food for pollinators such as bees and bumblebees. The flowers provide food for beetles and butterflies, while the seeds are cheerished by many birds.
The bright cheerful yellow flowers, the amazing seed clocks, and the strong hollow stalks can provide inspiration for ideas.
A project involving dandelions is perfect at this time of the year. And perfect if you are homeschooling your children due to the coronavirus.
Take out the magnifying glasses and marvel at pappus.
Our book “Biomimicry with Theo & Tuva: Nature spotting inspires wild ideas” has a chapter dedicated to Dandelions. The first section of each little chapter is a fictional story where the children, Theo and Tuva, make an observation. In the second section, there are facts about an animal or plant. The third section contains a prompt to use the observation to solve a problem or invent something inspired by the observation. This book works well with the resource below about Dandelions.
“I’ve often considered it strange that the most intellectual creature ever to walk the earth is destroying its only home. This wonderful story, What Happened When We All Stopped, helps parents and their children to overcome the disconnect between our clever brains and our loving compassionate hearts. We must find a way of living in harmony with nature so that both may thrive. I hope this story book inspires people of all ages to play their part in healing the harm we have inflicted so that together we can create a new future.”Jane Goodall
Listen to this beautiful animted poem read by Jane Goodall. The poem exlores how the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of the importance of living in harmony with nature.
Migrating rufous hummingbirds are famous for their extraordinary flight skills. The hummingbirds remember feeders and flowers along the way to their breeding grounds. Due to climate change, many flowers that the birds feeds on during the breeding season have started blooming prior to the birds’ arrival. The rufous may arrive to late to feed on the flowers.
Rufous hummingbirds have remarkable memory so they remember feeders/flowers along the way. They avoid flowers that they recently alredy emptied and those that were empty.
But can they remember faces?
Maise lives on Vancouver Island and she loves hummingbirds. Below are a couple of beautiful videos of Maise and hummingbirds. Perfect vidoes to capture kids’ interest in these remarkable birds. Go here to learn more about hummingsbirds.
On Monday, 1st June, some pupils in the UK will return to school after the lockdown due to coronavirus. Lots of thoughts and worries but listening to Janine Benyus talk about the “great pause” as she calls the lockdown offer a vision of utopian glimmer in the darkness. The lockdown due to the coronavirus has provided us with time for not only reflection but also opportunity to think and ask questions.
“Viruses are all around us. In a square meter, 800 million viruses a day fall from the sky. They are a hugely important part of our world and our evolution. But these pandemics happen when the natural defences are broken. [Meanwhile] climate change is just putting everything under stress. So, we’ve got this natural system that is out of kilter.” Janine Benyus
Ecological collapse and climate change are two conditions that have created a greater risk of global pandemics. Nature is sending us all a message and exploring these message from biomimicry lens can offer hope.
Janine says: “We’re seeing a bit of utopian glimmer coming through, and natural selection chooses what works over and over. So, when we get back to normal, we get this glorious choice to put back in our lives only what is best, only what we found made life worth living.”
The video is long, but offer great material for discussions about asking questions about how our future.
I love this way of expressing a new way forward.
“We’re saying, ‘Let’s make ourselves as small as possible and not harm anything around us.’ But let’s break that open and say, ‘Let’s put the wellness not just inside our homes, but outside the walls,’ How can we go from meeting our own needs to doing what other organisms do, which is hailing goodness and benefit to everything around us?”
What does it mean to put wellness out the walls?
Can you imagine how cities will function after the pandemic?
Will the llamas become heroes in the fight against covid-19?
Llamas are gorgeous looking animals that have caputured many hearts with their soulful big eyes, funny haircut and velvety snout. The fluffy gentle giants have also attracted the attention of scientists studying antibodies.
The remarkable antibodies of camelids, llamas, camels and alpacas, has been studied since 1989 when the benefits were first discovered at the Univerisity of Brussels. The antibodies in llamas blood have proved to be effective against a viruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Today, some scientists are hopeful that the antibodies found in llamas blood can help to neutralise the coronaviruses’ spike protein. This is the portion that attacks other healthy cells.
I made a resource about viruses and a perfect addition could be a project about llamas (this idea is not included in the resource).
Our gardens, parks and forests are filled with wonders and beauty. Breathtaking wildlife and beautiful plants that give us life, it’s important to understand our world and nature drawing and biomimicry journaling give children an opportunity to enhance their understanding and appreciation of our earth.
I love to mix art and science! Biomimicry is a great opportunity to take out art supplies.
Spring is the perfect time to study butterflies. With their colourful wings and gentle fluttering, it is easy to understand why they are such a welcome sign of Spring. The arrival of butterflies is also an important measure of the effects that changes in climate have on our wildlife.
Drawing an animal or plant can provide a deeper understanding. An engaging way to learn.
Inspired by the wonderful book The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone, we decided to “butterfly out” and to take a book with a photo of butterfly outside and find a flower for the butterfly to sit on, then draw it. We made a quick sketch focusing on recording what we see, rather than trying to draw the flower accuratetly. Such fun!
This drawing exercise works well with bees, and why not find the perfect branch for a bird?
Looking for inspirtion for a biomimicry project on butterflies or moths?
“We believe that the widespread adoption of nature-inspired solutions will catalyze a new era in design and business that benefits both people and the planet. Let’s make the act of asking nature’s advice a normal part of everyday inventing. We hope you will join us.” Biomimicry Institute
This year has been filled with changes and many of us have kids staying at home because the schools are closed. We might have to work from home or restrict the number of times we go out each day. A visit to nature is something that might not be possible, but there are other ways that we can reconnect with nature. The Biomimicry Institute has made a wonderful list with activities that may help you find new ways to connect with nature.
Biomimicry education should be a memorable experience!
Several different approaches can be used to inspire children to explore nature and to feel excited about solving problems or inventing things. You can read books such as “How an Idea from Nature Changed Our World” by Dorna Schroeter and explore how biomimicry can be used to solve an annoying problem. Children will love reading about how Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestral, invented Velcro.
You can also invite a scientist working in the biomimicry field to the classroom. Children can ask questions and gain important insights into how ideas from nature can be developed into exciting innovations or how they can help to solve tricky problems. There is also a wide selection of videos that can be used to show children how ideas of nature have resulted in great innovations.
Yet, I think nothing really beats engaging in biomimicry yourself.
Allowing children time to ponder and explore nature, 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. Biomimicry education should be a memorable experience and nothing can be more exciting than the thrill of a brilliant idea!
Small, colourful and spectacular! Hummingbirds are beautiful and strong. They provide the perfect inspiration for great ideas!
A wonderful way to keep schoolchildren happy and engaged at home as well as ensuring that they are continuing their learning is to start a project. Project-based learning is an engaging way to spark an interest in a topic and to be creative. Core curriculum such as Maths and English is a priority but often they can be included in a project.
Just before the coronavirus shutdown of schools around the world, I made a Biomimicry resource about Hummingbirds. This resource is made for the Google classroom and can be used for homeschooling.
There are so many interesting things that can be used to inspire children to solve problems or invent new things. Hummingbirds hovering and their wing structure is immensely interesting. Their tongue and the way they are feeding can spark lots of fun ideas.
Why not build a city inspired by the way hummingbirds build a nest? Or build a hummingbird robot?
What everyday problem could a body like a ferret solve?
Love all the wonderful ideas that pop up while you watch this video of a ferret in slow motion. Like magic the ferret lowers and stretches itself out, making its body 30% longer. This helps they when they are running through small tunnels.
Amazingly they loose almost no speed when travelling through small tunnels. There bodies are designed to switch the shape when they are running in tunnel.
Ferrets hunt in burrows that are tight and twisted. They bend their bodies up to 180 degrees, both vertically and horizontally.
When I started making Biomimicry resources I had a vision of what I wanted them to look like. Google Classroom has made it possible to get a bit closer. Still, some ideas that I would like to include. Things can always be improved.
Edward de Bono said, “Good But Not Enough”!
Mantees and dugongs make a perfect topic for a project-based learning unit. It is easy to fall in love with these beautiful creatures.
The wonderful thing with Google Classroom is that you can use videos. Perfect way to bring nature study into the classroom and to allow kids to study functions, behaviour and structures in detail. Perfect way to feel inspired!
I have previously written about dugongs, go here to read the blog posts.
Wombats are one of Australia’s most loved marsupials, but they are often misunderstood. In children’s books they are described as slow and clumsy, yet, they can actually run faster than a human or dog over a short distance.
Muddle-headed wombats! No, they are quick to learn and they have adapted to their life underground. However, the stories about heroic wombats herding other animals to saftey into their fire-proof burrows are not true. Nevertheless, wombats may have helped many animals during the recent bushfires in Australia. It might not have been their intention, but their burrows provide a safe refuge underground.
Wombats dig large warrens, and the networks of interconnecting burrows have temperatures are very stable compared to surface temperatures. Daily temperature fluctuations can be less than 1° Celsius as compared to 24 degrees on the surface. The coolish burrows would be great help during fires so many small mammals use wombat burrows to hide from the flames.
Wombats do not have one burrow, instead they have multiple burrows, one study found a wombat with 14 different burows. The warrens can have several entrances and can consist of almost 100 metres of tunnels.
But surviving fire is only half the battle. The food in a landscape barren after a bush fire is scare and it is vital to avoid predators.
“Down a burrow, dug in deep.
A wombat curled up, fast asleep.
In other tunnels big and round
Other creatures can be found.” Bushfire by Tricia Oktober
Earth sheltering is sustainable approach to building houses. Design a house or a suburb or town inspired by wombats. For inspiration check out this these designs.
A dangerous summer is unfolding in Australia and so far millions, even billions animals have lost their lives in raging bushfires. Bushfires are common in Australia so animals and plants have developed various ways to survive and reproduce.
This year, the bushfires are not normal, hundreds of fires are burning and the links to climate change are clear. Heartbreaking videos of animals fleeing, dead birds washed up on beaches as well as severly injured koalas and kangroos!
Perhaps the most important thing that the biomimicry approach has taught me is to explore possible solutions using nature as inspiration. It is simply not good enough to be sad! Never give up! So the idea for a new resource was born this week.
I found my daughter’s book “Bushfire” by Tricia October in the bookshelves a couple of months ago, so I suppose the ideas have been twirling around for a while. Anyway, started to work on it now! Below is a poster.
The poster is available for free download here. Like most of my biomimicry booklets, it takes time to write them and at the moment I am simply reading about the bush!
Learning is more fun and memorable when you are encouraged to ask questions and solve engaging problems. By inspiring your students to explore biomimicry you provide them with an opportunity to be amazed by the natural world. Biomimicry offers an opportunity to explore strategies and look for patterns in nature, and to mimic them to design your own solutions to a problem.
Students learn by asking questions, and biomimicry can be used to explore imaginative, innovative, and even serious questions. The projects are intended to inspire a playful and creative approach towards problem-solving.
Step out of the classroom or watch some nature videos
Viable solutions to issues can be found by applying nature’s strategies. Bio means life, and mimicry means to mimic life and nature.
Biomimicry is an exciting way to be creative, curious and to observe the world. It offers a fantastic opportunity to use magnifiers, binoculars and discover how fantastic the natural world really is. Search for local heroes in the schoolyard. By studying the collective intelligence of ants working together in the schoolyard ideas about how to work together in the classroom to accomplish more can be explored.
What if you were a caterpillar? You may hear students talk about how caterpillars can squeeze through tiny crack and how they can climb upside-down under a leaf. Then they use this observation to invent something. The focus shift from observing to being inspired by the observation to solve problems or to invent things. The impact of the observation is mind-blowing.
There are amazing videos that can be used in the classroom to study how an echidna finds its way in the dark water despite its habit of folding up his eyes, ears, and nostrils within his skin when he dives. Or you can study how a ladybird unfolds its wings in slow motion.
Passion for questions
Biomimicry is not aimed at learning the names of animals or plants. It is about observing behaviours and functions, and using these as a stepping-stone for ideas. There are no right or wrong answers or solutions.
So what purpose do these biomimicry projects serve?
Question asking is an undervalued part of education, and when using biomimicry with students is also great to allow children to ask deeper questions about nature. Questions of a more philosophical nature that will help them to develop a mindset that understands nature.
It might be difficult to understand why biomimicry is important and what children can learn from this approach to look at nature to find inspiration for new ideas. Most schools teach children about how animals and plants grow, where they can be found, and taxonomy but nature can be used as an inspiration to solve some of the most urgent sustainability challenges. So, maybe biomimicry or biometrics should be part of every curriculum.
What impact should you see?
Biomimicry creates a positive learning atmosphere, builds confidence and gives a nature a value. Students 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. To value animals and plants is necessary to develop a desire to save and care for them.
Biomimicry is great brain workout since it challenges children to be creative and to use their observations to solve problems and design things. Building model and making sketches is part of biomimicry – tinkering with a purpose.
Below it an example from a freebie about Giraffes. You can start by exploring how biomimicry has been used by car manufacturers to design a car using the boxfish as inspiration. The shape of the boxfish was believed to improve aerodynamics as well as stability.
Randomness is at the heart of creative thinking and here it is used to spark ideas. The suggestions are not random, rather there are suggestions that can be used to invent something based upon observations of giraffes, see the poster. A way of scaffolding the students to be creative. There is also an option where the students can explore their own ideas.
The observations in the poster explore functions that can be used to explore ideas, innovate and solve problems.
Note, this blog post has been published at The Wheel, where you also find the Freebie and other of my resources. The Wheel is based in Australia and it gives me great pleasure to find my resources there. I have left my heart in many places and Australia is one.
Embrace the trend! Start 2020 with spending time in nature and ponder!
Biomimicry is an emerging trend that is slowly but surely entering the business world, universities as well as the classroom.
It may not always be easy to embrace biomimicry. Yet, it is a wonderful feeling to search for exciting solutions to problems and to step outside the box. To use a walk in the forest, local park or the schoolyard as a stepping stone to consciously study animals, fungi and plants require a great dollop of patience.
Biomimicry is a way to make children aware of that by caring for Earth and all of life, we care for ourselves. A fantastic superidea that will lead to improvements in our health or to a way to reduce environmental problems may be waiting to be discovered in nature. Thus, it becomes important to safeguard animals and plants when you see a greater picture and appreciate nature and what we can learn by investigating and discovering its secrets. Nature develops and does not stand still, but for millions of years animals and plants have learned from their less good ideas.
“Children and young people have an amazing ability to associate, fantasise and come up with solutions. That’s what we try to use and stimulate further through our first book. Biomimicry with Theo & Tuva: Nature spotting inspires wild ideas.”
Funny, beautiful, excting, sad and heartbreaking. The BBC’ s Seven Worlds One Planet has it all! A celebration of the diversity of life on each of the seven continents nearth, but also a hunting look into the challenges faced by animals in a modern world.
Narrated by David Attenborough this is a real treat. And the book looks like a perfect gift.
My head is buzzing with ideas after having spent today watching 5 episodes! What ideas do you get when you watch these videos?
Particle robots, working as a an oscillating group do not have any need for centralised control. The particle robots change their rhythms based on how intense a nearby light is shining.
Robots that work together in this way could move through different types of environments, even places that they have never visted before. Working together as an oscillating group means that they to not need to plan, or come up with a strategy. They can be flexible and adapt to the new envrioment in real time.
Clusters of particle robots do not need to be organised in a particular shape to work. Instead they can just like clusters of cells move as a blob without any clearly defined shape or form.
Books are one of my biggest weaknesses. I love thin books, thick books, adult’s book, children’s books, picture books and books with nothing but words!
Here is a list of books that inspires us to look at nature. The books may challenge us to invent things, solve problems, dream and build wonderfully weird things. For extra fun I have added some great games.
Flying bats, owls and even spiders. Be amazed and feel inspired by these wonderful creatures and use them as inspiration for wonderful imaginative Halloween creations. Move away from the plastic toys and costyms, and celebrate the wonder of nature this Hallween.
If you serach for spiders, bats and owls in the serach box, there are blog posts with ideas.
“A world that shimmers in different moss green shades can be as beautiful as a colourful coral reef.” Biomimicry with Theo & Tuva: Nature spotting inspires wild ideas
Theo & Tuva are exploring nature in the warm spring sun, on warm summer days when the rain is pouring down, when the snow sparkles and on beautiful autumn days.
The green mosscarpet are hiding wonderful secrets. Yet, it is so easy to miss the moss when it is growing everywhere in the garden, the forest, or on old park benches.
Biomimicry is a way to use nature as inspriation and to learn from nature to solve problems. The book about Theo & Tuva aims to inspire nature spotting and to use these in a creative way.
Mosses are perfect air purifiers and exhaust detectors. How would you design a school inspired by moss?
But moss can also flutter in the wind! Perfect inspiration for a poem or story.
The video below was taken by late Andreas Kay in the rainforest of Ecuador. It shows the exquisite stick insect (Trychopeplus thaumasius). The mossy moves starts at around 33 seconds and they are are a treat!
Cold and misty morning! Perfect day for watching this 1975 film based on the story Hedgehog in the Fog by Russian children’s writer Sergey Kozlov.
A hedgehog walks through the night to visit his friend, a bear cub. It is not easy to find your way in a dense forest, and the little hedgehog gets lost in the fog. With the help of mysterious strangers he finds his way to comfort of tea, raspberyy jam and stargazing. A beautiful melancholic tale about taking risks, overcoming fear, and wonder.
Can we capture carbon using plants and animals as strategic tools in our climate toolbox?.
The global climate is changing, and the focus is often on decreasing the output of greenhouse gases via technologies or ideas such carbon offset or carbon taxes. Yet, reducing the emission of carbon is only one idea. We could accelerate the removal of excessive carbon dioxide from the atmopshere. The excessive carbon should be stored somewhere else. Plant photosynthesis does that, plants remove CO2 and release oxygen to the air. The carbon is captured in roots, plant stems, leaver and humus.
Big fruit bats, vampire bats with razor sharp teeth, and the cutest fluffy white bat with yellow ears, and an interesting leaf-shaped nose.
In the latest biomimicry booklet I slipped by accident into medical applications inspired by nature. And it was the Hoduran white bat that sparked the initial idea.
Honduran white bat has the ability to store a yellow pigment called lutein in its ears and nose. Yellow pigments play significant roles in human health, particularly the health of eyes. Studying this cute tent-making bat may lead to insights into how to use these yellow pigments to prevent macular degeneration. Macular diseasis a form of blindness – blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field.
Caring for the natural world is imporant for several reasons. And studying bats give students a chance to explore ways that bats are helping us. Bats have a bad reputation and they are linked to Halloween and Dracula. But bats are fascinating inspirational creatures and the world would be a lesser place without them – several species are endangered.
Fairy tales have trees with human faces, trees that can talk and whisper, and sometimes even walk or fly.
Yet, trees are despite all their brilliant features easy to ignore. They grow slowly, really slowly, and even if deciduous trees shed their leaves and burst with new leaves each spring they are sometimes just there in the schoolyard, local park or garden.
In education, the focus is often on identifying different types of trees and describing the shapes of leaves, needles or cones. But our understanding of trees have the last couple of years really increased and The Hidden Life of Trees has revealed some amazing things.
Can trees talk? Trees make lots of noises. Branches creak as the rub against each other and the leaves rustle. But these sounds are caused by the wind and not the tree itself.
Trees communicate by using smell. They send out chemicals to warn predators. The acacia tree on the African savannah that are being eaten by a giraffe give off a warning gas that warns other neighbouring trees, so they immediately start pumping toxic substances into their leaves. The giraffes ignore the neighbouring trees and move to another area, or to an area where the wind had nor transported the message.
Are there sad trees?
Peter Wohllenben the author of the The Hidden Life of Trees says that the saddest trees have lost their ability to communicate. The saddest trees are found in agriculture.
What else would make a tree sad?
Well, isolated trees are sad. Trees like to share and connect with other trees. Tree have a do to list and they need to grow a little and lack of nutrients, water and sunlight makes them sad.
We are making a tree with leaves that are falling off. On each leaf, we are writing suggestions of things that can make a tree sad.
Tricky question? Can you always tell if a tree is sad? Can a tree still have green needles but not being healthy and growing? (Growth rings is a sign that a tree is growing.)
The forest is home for thousands of species, big animals like bears, and deer, and smaller animals like hedgehogs, porcupines and rabbits. Thousands of ways to explore possibilities and be inspired.
Porcupine Quills to Needles (21st Century Junior Library: Tech from Nature) by Jennifer Colby is a book in a series that aims towards providing children with skills that will help them to succeed in the 21st century. The series is about biomimicry, yippeee, and they are recommended for children in year 2 to 5. Perfect books filled with facts about animals or plants. There is also a description of an idea that has emerged from the observations of the animal or plant.
The book about porcupine is perfect to use with this booklet that I recently made. My booklet aims towards taking the learning a bit further and inspire children to ask their own questions based upon an observation and then use it to invent something themselves or solve a problem. So this is a perfect match.
In my booklet, children are asked to compare the spines of hedgehogs with the porcupine quills. They can invent a helmet inspired by hedgehogs or look for a sharp idea inspired by porcupines.
Sound is important when you are birding or bat spotting, but we can learn a lot about nature from closing our eyes and focusing on distinguishing signals. Our garden has this summer been bursting with the sounds of squirrels playing the trees. If we focused, we could hear them jumping from one branch to the next.
Lots of questions twirl around in your head when you close your eyes and listen.
Is it one squirrel?
Is it two squirrels chasing each other?
Was that an unripe apple falling off the tree?
Was the squirrel responsible for the unripe apple falling off the tree?
We have been trying to figure out whether there are kittens hiding somewhere in the birch tree, but we are not sure . . . it is very tricky to spot baby squirrels since they do not leave their nest until they are big and furry. This means that it is very difficult to tell the
Using your biomimicry journal you can write down the sounds. You can make a map of your garden or area in the local park and mark out all the sounds you can hear. How are the sounds related to each other?
A couple of years ago, I seriously considered moving to Tasmania so this video is a bit special. The wildlife of Tasmania is a wonderful source of inspiration and who better to tell the story than David Attenborough. It is a long video, but it tells an excting story of wallabies, platypuses, minature penguins and much, much more. I hope you enjoy it.
Summer evenings can be magical. Spending time the park or garden listening to the birds and watching the bees drinking nectar from the flowers. But summer evening can also be filled with thunder and lightning, which means that magic that can be found in nature can come by reading. Picture books bring the outdoors in where it can be enjoyed by reading about magical treehouses, shy beetles or ways to care for our earth.
A Year in the Wild by Ruth Symons is an exquisite picture book. Stunning pictures and a text that captures the wonder and magic of each season. But that is not all, the artwork is made by Helen Ahpornsiri from pressed plants. Her intricate artwork transforms leaves, petals, and seeds into hares, swallows, and blossoming trees.
Are you fascinated by the sea? The pressed flower technique has been used to illustrate another book – Beneath the Waves. In this equally exquiste book seaweeds, feathery algae and coastal blooms are transformed into playful penguins, sf silvery sharks and much more.
Biomimicry stimulates the imagination and inspires children to see nature as a place that offers both adventure and play, as well as a chance to discover the secrets of nature. Biomimicry is 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. A new way to explore and discover nature’s solutions!
Biomimicry gives children a chance to believe that it can solve great problems and that there are interesting observations to made regardless of whether you are in the school yard, in the garden or in the forest. A great opportunity to observe, listen, smell, use magnifying glasses, binoculars and discover how wonderful nature is. When using biomimicry with children, it is important to give them a chance to develop their thoughts and let their imagination fly.
The term biomimicry consists of two parts, bio which means life and mimicry which means mimic from nature. Biomimicry offers a chance to move learning outside and also to bring the observation home and explore solutions using nature as a starting point.
Biomimicry has a focus on sustainability, eco-efficiency and alternative ways to approach design and problems.
The games come from North Star Games and they have quickly become very popular games. The game Evolution has even been used in the evolutionary biology department at the University of Oxford.
In the game 2-6 players adapt species in an changing ecosystem. The environment is filled with hungry predators and the resources are limited. Hard shells and horns can protect your animal from carnivores and a long neck will help you get food from high branches.
This game is stunning and every game takes the players on a different adventure. There are over 12, 000 different species to create.
I love the idea behind the climate game where the task is to adapt your species in an ecosytem where food is scarce, predators lurk, and the climate changes between scorching hot and icy cold.
The idea appeared yesterday when we were walking our dog. So many interesting ideas appear when you are walking. Walking improves creativty, according to a Stanford study. Stuck at home, staring at the walls, ideas seem hard to hatch. We have been thinking about the puffins but every idea seemed . . . boring . . . until yesterday!
There is so much rubbish where we live, and picking it up always seems like a great thing but such hard work. If you have ever watched the people who would around in the cities with a rubbish picker litter stick you understand the problem.
Their beaks have a flexible hinge so the puffin can control the degree of the opening of the mouth. There are spines, denticles, inside the upper jaw. The puffin holds the fish against the spines with its tongue so they can continue to hunt for more fish.
Just like the puffin can hold at least 10 fish in its beak, this litter picker can hold at least 10 pieces of rubbish. The rubbish can be of various sizes and most importantly when you relase the rubbish into the bin the rubbish sorts itself. The litter picker flashes in different colours when it is about to relase paper, another glowing colour of plastic . . .
One of the great things about biomimicry is that there is interesting information and great videos on the Internet and in the library. So, if you just like me have never had the pleasure of seeing a puffin in the wild, you can still study this beautiful bird and feel inspired by it. Of course, it would be wonderful to see a breeding colony during spring or summer but. . . well, the great bird can still be studied, loved and used to spark ideas.
When we searched for images of puffins to draw, we stumbled upon a great image of a puffin with a glowing beak!
The beak reflects the blue light and re-emits it as a different colour— green, red, or orange. Puffins are biofluorescent animals, which is different from bioluminescence, where the animal either produces the light itself or hosts other organisms that shine.
Exactly why a puffin has a beak that glows is a bit of a mystery. But many marine animals such as corals, sea turtles, fish, seahorses and sharks emit a luminous glow under the water. If you shine blue light on them they glow.
We painted a puffin in the Biomimicry Journal with a beak that is almost glowing!
Creating a Biomimicry Journal is a bit different from designing a Nature Journal. Just like when you are making a Nature journal you can make drawings and write about what you see, smell, feel, taste and hear. You can also glue in leaves, flowers and other nature treasures. But you also need to think about ideas and how you can use the observations to “invent ” and design things. And this is the most exciting part!
Imagine a t-shirt that glows in different colours depending on the light. On a rainy day, it might become brighter to cheer you up, and on a sunny day . . . What exciting ideas do you have?
Puffins have been in the news this week. Sadly, climate change might be the reason behind the crested or tufted puffins decline in numbers in the Bering Sea.
Although, I have previously used endangered animals as inspiration for ideas, when I selected puffins a couple of weeks ago for a new booklet that I am working on, it was purely because I have always loved this wonderful bird for their expressive clown-like faces and multicoloured bills. I thought that this bird would capture children’s attention and imagination. Using a biomimicry lens to study nature, its models, systems, and processes is important for several reasons, and highligting the importance of the rich variety of species is one.
Puffins have puffed-up appearance and their chicks are fluffy. Puffins look almost like round balls. They are also called “sea parrots” or “tropical penguins” because of their brightly coloured beaks. In the winter, their beaks and their brigthly coloured feet fade to a greyish colour.
Fabulous Observations to Spark New Ideas!
Puffins are great diggers – they use their sharp claws on their webbed feet and sharp beaks to dig.
Short wings are perfect when diving for fish.
Can stay up to a minute under water searching for fish.
They can hold at least ten fish in their beaks.
It is more difficult for a puffin to hold a large fish since they leave the fish dangling to one side of the mouth.
It is important to save energy. They catch several small fish each time since each trip uses a lot of energy.
Their beaks have a flexible hinge so the puffin can control the degree of the opening of the mouth.
There are spines, denticles, inside the upper jaw. The puffin holds the fish against the spines with its tongue so they can continue to hunt for more fish.
Why not draw a puffin or a couple of puffins in your biomimicry journal while you ponder over a great ideas using puffins as inspiration?
“Treehouses are for wonder. Treehouses are for snacks. Treehouses are for whispers and snickers and echoes. Treehouses are for everyone.”
Ever dreamt of having a treehouse? A magical place where you can escape from reality.
Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes is a wonderful celebration of treehouses. Children dream up fantastic treehouses and exciting adventures that accompany them. Spending time in a wild place with your friends is the perfect way to spend a warm day.
Many children do not have a tree house or green space but the final pages show a tiny tree in a pot. Children are dreaming around the little tree in the backyard. So the power of imagination is all you need! Also, trees might actually look best just as they are but that is different story!
This is an idea that I got a long, long time ago. Finally decided to make a start and I make a booklet with an invention board game with a focus on six fantastic and inspiring animals – giraffe, dolphin, zebra, giant panda, meerkat and cheetah.
When using biomimicry with young children, it is often easier to start with an observation of animal or plant and then prompt the child to get an idea rather than starting with a problem and looking for inspiration in the natural world.
The game can be played in several different ways. Children can work in groups and solve the challenges together. They can work in pairs or a child can play the game to challenge him/herself.
This is a unique board game that has a life after it has been played!
Make an invention Quilt filled with ideas!
Children can make a quilt and work on their ideas. They can give their invention a cool name, write about who will use the invention, instruction for building, materials . . . A great decoration for the classroom or kitchen!