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Practice Thinking Biomimicry

Students learn about and practice biomimicry design theory and learn about the history of life.

Practice Thinking Biomimicry
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Print images of the different life events and have students place them along a timeline. If time is short, remove items from the timeline

Be sure to watch this lesson’s video on biomimicry and learn more about biomimicry through extra TED talks such as “Janine Benyus: Biomimicry’s Surprising Lessons from Nature’s Engineers.”

· For more background information about biomimicry, check out:, Biomimicry San Diego

· If your class will not have access to computers, omit Question 3 from Station A.


“Second Nature: The Biomimicry Evolution.” Biomimicry 3.8 Institute. 2014. Web. 21 Oct 2014. .

Download PDF

Biomimicry can be described as the practice of looking deeply into nature for solutions to engineering, design, and other challenges.

Students compare their idea of the history of life to the actual sequence of events on Earth, think about the diversity of life and how humans can learn from the adaptations organisms have gained through evolutionary time, and gain a basis in being able to ask the correct questions in order to engineer new ideas learned from organisms.




11.RST 7: Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g. graph, model, table)

11.SL 1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners

NGSCS: LS4.B: Natural Selection only can occur if there is trait variation

LS4.D: Biodiversity increases with more species and decreases with extinction

LS4.D: Humans depend on biodiversity but also adversely impact it

NGSCS Cross-Cutting Concepts:

1. Patterns: Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns

2. Cause and Effect: Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect

3. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity: Patterns observable at one scale may not be observable or exist at other scales

6. Structure and Function: The way an object is shaped or structured determines many of its properties and functions




Materials for preparation:

· Obtain “A Biomimicry Primer” PDF ahead of time *requires advance notice*

Materials for activity:

· Activity A and Activity B worksheets

· A way to show a YouTube video in class

· Access to at least one computer per group for Station A



· Print a copy of both activity worksheets for each student



1. Have students read the biomimicry primer before coming to class.

2. In class, watch “Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in Action.”

3. Begin with a Think-Pair-Share activity. Have students individually think about the following question: » “The film showed an apartment building designed to regulate temperature by using ideas learned from termite mounds. Make a list of different “houses” that organisms build. (Possible answers: spider webs, beaver dams, ant tunnels, birds’ nests, beehives). » If you were going to build a house, which of those organisms would inspire your design?”(one minute). » Have students form groups of four to discuss their thoughts with the other students. » Discuss as a class (total of five minutes).

4. Give students a minute to individually choose a manmade object inside or outside the classroom.

5. Assign groups to Activity A or Activity B. Hand out the appropriate worksheets to each student.

6. Students doing Activity A will share their thoughts about their object and its issues and will be brainstorming together. Students doing Activity B will be working together to figure out the history of life on Earth.

7. Rotate activities after 10 minutes.



1. How would you describe biomimicry to a friend? To a younger student? To your parents?

2. In the film, biomimicry is about learning from organisms as “models.” How does this compare to farming organisms or to the genetic engineering of organisms for human purposes?

3. The rest of nature has thrived on this planet for 3.8 billion years without destroying the environment. Humans have been around roughly 200,000 years and in the last couple centuries have been struggling to live in harmony with the rest of nature. How has living on Earth for 3.8 billion years helped the natural world around us survive and thrive?

4. Were you surprised to learn that ideas from nature have inspired people to create new technologies? What are examples of things that organisms do well that are stated in the film?

5. How are toxic chemicals that humans create different from the ones that nature creates?

6. What ecosystem do we live in?

7. When was the last time you were outdoors for more than 1 hour? Where were you? What organisms were around you?

8. Through what process have these organisms gained so many different adaptations to living on Earth?