By. Sarayu Adeni, Global Partnerships Manager, EcoRise Youth Innovations
Consider the peacock feather. Who knew that such intriguing colors could be created without manufactured paints and dyes? What about the solid, compact structure of a snail shell…could we build storm-proof housing like that for humans?
These are some basic applications of biomimicry: a field of science that promotes a ‘nature as mentor’ approach to design. The answers to humanity’s most pressing challenges, biomimicry experts say, lie in existing natural processes and structures.
EcoRise Youth Innovations partnered with the Biomimicry Institute to integrate biomimicry concepts into existing high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. By December 2016, two suites of curriculum called Biomimicry and Science: Applying Nature’s Strategies emerged: one focused on concepts and applications, the other a challenge module for students and teachers entering the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. As of January, teachers from 85 schools in 16 countries are utilizing the content to enhance their courses.
“The Nature of Robots lesson and design activity looks great!” said Andrea Tole of Bertha Sadler Means Middle School in Austin, Texas after a recent virtual training session. “I think this will really strengthen the introduction to my automation and robotics unit and inspire students to connect what they are learning to the natural world.”
Other examples of lessons include ‘Swarm Intelligence and Smart Systems,’ about harnessing holistic power to build problem-solving systems as bees and ants do, and ‘Built for Brilliance,’ which teaches concepts of color with structure rather than toxic paints and dyes.
Since its recent launch, Biomimicry and Science has attracted worldwide interest from educators and members of various scientific institutions from across the U.S., as well as other countries from Turkey to Australia. The writers want students everywhere to find the curriculum’s content applicable to all contexts.
“This instruction gives students a new way of thinking about the world,” said Jenji Henson, Chief of Curriculum Development at EcoRise. “A way that mirrors nature, and therefore corrects many of the human-caused problems our short-term thinking has caused.”
“’Industry and Ecology: A Natural Fit’ was my favorite lesson to work on,” said Abby Randall, Programs Manager at EcoRise and curriculum collaborator. “I was so excited to learn about the Kalundborg Industrial Ecosystem in Denmark, which is modeled after naturally occurring ecosystems. At Kalundborg, waste products ranging from steam to animal waste to gypsum are cycled between industry, agriculture, and municipal partners. Through creative partnerships based on recycling and conservation, Kalundborg has significantly reduced its consumption of natural resources and its impact on the natural environment.”
EcoRise Youth Innovations, a non-profit organization focused on sustainability and design education, brings its global network of K–12 schools and teachers to this curriculum partnership. Founded in 2006, The Biomimicry Institute aims to infuse principles of biology into sustainable human systems design through educational outreach and competitive challenges. Together, the two organizations hope to align evidence-based scientific solutions and youth-driven sustainable development.
For more information about EcoRise Youth Innovations’ work in the field of Biomimicry, visit www.ecorise.org/biomimicry.
Sarayu Adeni is the Global Partnerships Manager at EcoRise Youth Innovations. She has worked to improve education infrastructure and children’s rights domestically and internationally with diverse organizations, including the Peace Corps, The Earth Institute, Millennium Villages, Human Rights Watch, Pratham USA, The Miracle Foundation, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She holds a Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice from Columbia University, and a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. firstname.lastname@example.org (512) 651-3563 x706