Green Schools 2019: GD03: Think Outside: Engage Students in STEM and Sustainable Design with Biomimicry Youth Design Challenges

Tue, 2019/04/09
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Presenters: Gretchen Hooker Betsy Vinton
GBCI Credit: 0

Biomimicry is an innovation method that looks to examples in nature for strategies to solve design and engineering problems. It is a rapidly growing field of study that is charting the course toward a more sustainable world and creating exciting new STEM career pathways for the next generation of scientists and innovators. At a time when many students have a fractured relationship to nature, biomimicry-based learning offers a profound shift in how we view and value the natural world and an engaging context for teaching STEM and environmental literacy. This hands-on workshop will provide educators with an introduction to the practice of biomimicry as well as tools and examples for bringing it into the classroom to support STEM instruction and enhance student engagement, creativity, and critical thinking.

Working in small groups, participants will experience the biomimicry design process first-hand via activities from a collection of free lessons plans provided as part of the Biomimicry Institute’s Youth Design Challenge (YDC). The YDC is a free project-based education program and annual competition that empowers students to design nature-inspired solutions to problems associated with climate change. It was successfully piloted with 50 teachers in spring 2018 with over 85% reporting a "moderate" to "strong" impact on: students' knowledge of biomimicry, their interest in nature and sustainability, their creativity, and their problem-solving skills. During this session we'll hear directly from educators who incorporated the Challenge into their teaching. The session will close with time for group discussion and reflection on how educators can integrate biomimicry into their curriculum to support key learning objectives in their schools/districts.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe what biomimicry is and how it can be used to teach STEM and environmental literacy concepts.
  • Analyze a design problem and identify possible avenues for biomimetic inspiration.
  • Access free resources for teaching biomimicry and identify possible ways the design challenge could be integrated into an existing course, science club or after school activity.
  • Use provided resources to plan and implement a Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge project to promote students’ environmental literacy, 21st century skills, and support existing educational goals.
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