Behind the Scenes of the Biomimicry Unit

This unit was developed by Hillbrook Middle School Science Teacher Brian Ravizza, in partnership with the Scott Center.

DESCRIPTION:

This Spring, the seventh grade embarked on a biomimicry unit that asked them to apply nature-inspired design to some of the world’s most pressing issues. The students began by reviewing a portfolio they had prepared earlier in the year, full of issues that caught their attention, projects they’ve enjoyed, and passions they’ve developed during their time at Hillbrook. They then took the time to interview community members, who came to campus and spoke with the students about local and global issues that they see in the world. Based on the information gathered in these first two steps, the students, largely working in groups, decided what issue they wanted to try and address with a biomimicry solution, connecting that problem to one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The next task was to delve into research on biological strategies that could be adapted for their designs, compiling lists of real-world natural phenomena and their potential applications. And then it was time to get to work in the Hub, prototyping, logging progress, collecting peer feedback, adjusting, re-adjusting, and, finally, submitting a presentation and video detailing their project results. The students saw great success on many levels, whether it was a final product, a deeper understanding of project planning, or the honing of social entrepreneurial skills that will be key for their year-long Social Impact + Leadership project next year in eighth grade. Some students are even continuing to develop further prototypes, despite the official project being long over!

RESOURCES:

  • The students had the opportunity to submit their projects to the Youth Design Challenge hosted by the Biomimicry Institute, an organization dedicated to “solving humanity‚Äôs biggest challenges through the adoption of biomimicry (nature-inspired innovation) in education, culture, and industry.”
  • The lists of biological strategies on AskNature proved vital for student research as they sought out nature-inspired designs to address their identified problem.

EXAMPLES:

Emma and Chloe ’23 worked to address the issue of ocean acidification with a filter based on giant larvaceans, which suck up carbon.
Cat, Lizzie, Kira, and Alea ’23 created plant-based paints and dyes to address issues of chemical pollution (dye creation pictured at the top of this page!)
Addie ’23 chose to use biomaterial grown from kombucha as a potential replacement for leather, addressing the environmental impact of leather production.
Calvin and Nico ’23 connected their work to the Clean Water + Sanitation SDG, drawing on the natural filtering properties of soil to design their own type of hand-held water filter.
Henry ’23 holds a wallet made out of kombucha-grown biomaterial.