I often get a blank face when I talk about biomimicry. So what exactly is biomimicry? Well, like most things, the more you know, the more complicated it becomes to explain something.
A quick answer is that the word biomimicry consists of two words:
- bio which means life
- mimic which means to imitate.
Bio which means life is part of the word biology (logy which means study of). Biology is the natural science that study life and living organisms.
Humans have always used nature as inspiration to solve problems, for example, Leonardo da Vinci made numerous notes and sketches on the flight of birds. Although he never successfully created a flying machine, the Wright brothers who did succeed in creating a flying machine, studied pigeons.
Biomimicry is a way to get children excited about nature and it is a step away from focusing on remembering the names of animals and plant. The approach provides children, even young children, with an opportunity to explore the functions that the animals and plants perform both by themselves and in their ecosystem. This approach is in many ways a complete shift in focus from a learning based upon remembering facts to exploring underlying patterns and functions. A new way to teach children about nature.
There might be a higher cognitive demand put on a child when he or she is asked to explore a function, yet, many children are fascinated by the way a caterpillar moves and it is we, adults, who insist on identifying what type of caterpillar it is. It is we who for some reasons values the knowledge of remember the names rather than exploring the functions.
The founder of the biomimicry movement, Janine Benyus, sees it as an “approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.”
Janine stresses that is a search for sustainable solutions but there is no requirement that bio-inspired technology has to be. However, teaching young children to explore sustainable ways of solving problems and designing inventions should, in my opinion, be an underlying idea that is always discussed and explored.
Nature is not always fair and beautiful, yet, when looking for sustainable and ethical solutions it can offer great insights, and the younger a child is when asked to look for sustainable ways of explore a problem the better.