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Biomimicry Design Challenge

Theme: 
Innovation and Design, Natural Systems
Grade: 
9, 10, 11, 12
Essential questions
What is “design” and what do designers do?
What is “design thinking”?
How can biomimicry enhance design thinking and lead to more sustainable design solutions?
How do innovators develop design solutions using biomimicry?
What problem do we want to solve?
How can we learn from nature to solve our problem?
What is the best way to share our solutions?

LESSON 1: Design Thinking and Biomimicry
(Estimated time needed: One 55-minute session)
This lesson introduces students to a design thinking process that can help them apply principles of biomimicry to address critical real-world problems related to important social or environmental issues. It sets the stage for a biomimicry design capstone project and/or participation in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. In this first lesson, students explore the concept of design thinking and how it can be helpful in inspiring innovations. They also learn a design process that consists of five steps and integrates principles of biomimicry. Then they form teams and begin thinking about a design problem they would like to solve using biomimicry.

LESSON 2: Identifying the Design Challenge
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions plus group work outside of class)
This lesson introduces students to the first step of a biomimicry design thinking process: how to identify (or define) a design problem and its associated criteria and constraints. Students begin with a mind-mapping activity to help them explore various aspects of the biomimicry design challenge and to identify a manageable design problem their team can address. Teams work collaboratively to select an aspect of the design challenge to focus on. They summarize what they’ve decided by formulating a “design question” that identifies the context, constraints, and ultimate goal of their design.

LESSON 3: Exploring Nature’s Solutions
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions plus group work outside of class)
This three-part lesson begins with an outdoor experience in which students practice observing nature with a curious mind and begin speculating about the functions behind what they observe. In the second session, students view a presentation that introduces a method for translating design questions into terminology that can be used to search biology for applicable strategies. Then they participate in a game-show-style activity to reinforce their understanding. The session concludes with a homework assignment in which students work in their teams to apply what they have learned to translate their design question from the previous lesson into a “How does nature…” research question. In the third session, students learn about credible sources and methods for finding biological strategy information. Then they work in their teams to develop a research plan to investigate their “How does nature…” questions and begin finding biological models.

LESSON 4: Exploring Natures Patterns
(Estimated time needed: One 55-minute session plus group work outside of class)
In this lesson, students learn about patterns, the different ways patterns appear in nature, and how being observant of patterns can support biomimetic design. The lesson begins with a presentation that introduces patterns in nature at three scales that are relevant to biomimicry: visual/form patterns, process patterns, and system-level patterns. Afterward, students practice identifying patterns in a small-group activity and then apply what they have learned in their ongoing design challenge research, which was introduced in the previous lesson.

LESSON 5: Creating Nature-Inspired Ideas
(Estimated time needed: Three 55-minute sessions plus group work outside of class)
In this three-part lesson, students begin to generate design ideas from the biological strategies and patterns they discovered in previous lessons. In the first session, they learn how to translate biological strategies from their research into biomimetic design strategies that can be applied to a design problem. In the next session, they participate in a biomimicry brainstorming activity to generate many diverse design ideas for applying those design strategies. In the final session, they assess those ideas more closely for relevance and feasibility and select the strongest idea to carry forward in the design process.

LESSON 6: Refining the Design
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions plus group work outside of class)
In this lesson, students participate in a peer review and other activities that help them evaluate and improve the design idea they selected in the previous lesson. In the first session, they complete an analysis exercise that leads them to uncover the “pains” and “gains” of their current design idea and identify and record the next steps for refining the design. A homework assignment following the first session prepares students to participate in the second session, in which they present their work in progress to their peers for constructive feedback, which they then incorporate into their final design solution.

LESSON 7: Sharing Design Solutions
(Estimated time needed: Two 55-minute sessions plus group work outside of class and time for class or community presentations)
This lesson provides a framework to help students finalize and share the results of their Biomimicry Challenge project. Students develop a concise description to promote their design concept, plan and record a video pitch, and create a visual presentation to detail their design solution. If applicable, students also prepare their final design proposals to enter the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge (BGDC) competition.

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