Biomimicry in the Classroom (from West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District newsletter)
In the fall of 2011, Education Coordinator Erica Stokes, read a fascinating piece in Conservation magazine on biomimicry, and the idea of “emulating nature’s genius” in her work with students and teachers has been on her mind ever since. What is biomimicry? Biomimicry 3.8, the leading international biomimicry organization, defines the term as: a new science that studies nature’s models and then uses these designs and processes to solve human problems.
One aspect of Erica’s work includes guiding teachers and students through the process of creating Backyard Habitats on school property. In a new pilot of this program, teachers are also provided with professional development opportunities to give them tools to integrate this living classroom into their existing curriculum. Biomimicry Oregon (our local organization) approached us about partnering on a future project, and pairing their program with our existing education efforts seemed a natural fit.
Erica will be working with partners at Biomimicry Oregon and others to incorporate Biomimicry Oregon’s “Genius of Place” student stormwater project into existing Conservation District programs, including the Connect2Science professional development training provided by Friends of Tryon Creek and PSU’s Center for Science Education. We are in the beginning stages of program development, but we plan to update you on our progress in the coming months.
As part of this project, Mary Hansel, Biomimicry Oregon, will lead a 3 hour workshop on Life’s Principles with educators from Friends of Tryon Creek, PSU’s Center for Science Education, Portland Public Schools, and the Oregon Zoo on June 6.
We are so excited to have kicked off our first Practitioners Jam on Monday, May 20th.Facilitated by Chris Larson, we took a deeper look into the Biomimicry design process and how to apply it to a real-world design challenge. The evening’s challenge was how could Nature help us design/build resilient, affordable housing in Tornado Alley. Our discussion began with Life’s Principles and then moved into the Biomimicry methodology including the Biomimicry Taxonomy. We ended by exploring how future Practitioners Jams could be organized to best suit our diverse professional backgrounds. The meetings will definitely continue to evolve as we get to know each other and the material, but we are thrilled to have started the process.
Practitioners Jams will be held monthly, around the full moon, and will offer an opportunity for attendee’s to cross-pollinate ideas, network, and most importantly provide us the chance to practice the biomimicry design process.
Thank you to Charles Kelley and ZFG Architects for hosting the gorgeous meeting space! And thank you to Ian Broomfield for the tasty snacks.Discussed materials available at http://ben.biomimicry.net/curricula-and-resources/university-curricula/
Submit a 60 second video by June 3, 2013 to win a free pass to the Biomimicry Education Summit and Global Conference!
Glumac’s latest Sustainability Matters edition includes our Living Future
line up and an article on Biomimicry.
Biomimicry Oregon, with generous support from the Bullitt Foundation, recently completed a pilot Genius of Place project for the lower Willamette Valley. The project was designed to practice and document a process to develop sustainable solutions to local challenges inspired by local organisms and ecosystems.
Project reports are now available!
- Project Summary : Nature’s Strategies for Managing Stormwater in the Willamette Valley: Genius of Place Project Report
- Step-by-step Report of Project and Outcomes: Genius of Place Process Report: Nature’s Strategies for Managing Stormwater in the Willamette Valley
The project team of six individuals investigated the following research questions:
• How can we reduce the volume of peak water in the city combined sewer system?
• How can we manage peak stormwater flows at building, district, and city scales?
Through a “bio-brainstorm” with local biologists and a literature review, the team identified 80 local organism and ecosystem strategies for managing stormwater. Seven strategies were selected for in-depth research in order to fully understand the mechanisms at play… just how does star moss absorb water, or how do beavers intercept and slow flows? The strategies from nature were shared in an “ideation” workshop with 44 stormwater designers, researchers, policymakers, and entrepreneurs, who enthusiastically participated in a brainstorming session drawing inspiration from the biology.
Workshop participants developed 30 novel ways to manage stormwater based on the lessons they learned from nature. Ideas to absorb rainwater ranged from “spongewood” to permeable sidewalks to “living signs”, and stormwater “trees” that could capture and re-distribute water. Green roof promenades could both intercept rainwater and provide the added benefit of helping people below to stay dry. There were ideas inspired by all of the local genius mentors that were described – beaver, downed wood, forest canopy, mistletoe, hydraulic redistribution, moss, and mycorrizhal fungal networks.
Written feedback showed that workshop participants believe the Genius of Place process is a useful approach to innovation and has real, applicable value to their work. During the workshop, one participant exclaimed, “I have an idea that I’m going to get working on as soon as I get back to my desk!”
The need has never been greater for life-friendly, innovative design. We have barely scratched the surface in consulting nature’s genius as a mentor to help. This project has refined tools needed to continue this exploration. There is still a universe to learn from nature about managing stormwater, as well as a host of other challenges to explore.
We hope to apply this approach to help solve other local challenges.
With every new challenge, we can begin by asking, “What would Nature do?” What challenges do you have?
29 souls braved cloudy skies for a guided, 3-mile tour of building designs inspired by nature for local Pedalpaloozers and participants of the national Biomimicry Education Summit.
All agreed Biomimicry on Bikes is an idea worth repeating!
Biomimicry on Bikes with Biomimicry Oregon
Saturday, June 23, 2012, 5:30-8:30pm*
Tour only: $10 (payable on-site)
Bike rental with tour: $30 (Pre-registration required)
Join Biomimicry OR, the regional networking hub for biomimicry practitioners, educators, and enthusiasts from the state of Oregon, for a guided, 3-mile tour of building designs inspired by nature. Led by Biomimicry Oregon, the City of Portland, and Portland Bike Tours.
5:30 – 6:00 pm Rent bikes from Portland Bike Tours, 345 NW Everett Street
6:00 – 6:30 pm Meet at the Ecotrust building and depart, 721 Northwest 9th Avenue
8:00 – 8:30 pm Return rental bikes to Portland Bike Tours
*For skilled riders, there will be an optional 7-mile continuation of the ride returning to downtown Portland along the Springwater Corridor at dusk (return rental bikes the following day by 5:30 pm).
Biomimicry Oregon is stoked about Biomimicry 3.8’s choice to hold two national events in Portland in May & June 2012!
First, Professional Pathways taught a 3-day Biomimicry Backyard workshop May 5-7 at the Zoo and World Forestry Center. Coming up – the 6th Annual Biomimicry Education Summit, June 22-24, 2012 with a pre-summit 1-day biomimicry workshop for educators on June 21! More info and to register: http://edsummit.biomimicry.net/ . I’ll talk more about the upcoming Summit and Biomimicry Oregon’s planned participation in an upcoming post. But first, a recap of the Biomimicry Backyard Workshop!
Dayna Baumeister and Oregon’s own Karen Allen led students through the basics of biomimicry, and hands-on exploration of Life’s Principle (rules for well-adapted design as developed over the last 3.8 billion years) and the methodology of using Nature as Mentor, Model and Measure, which can be followed for any design challenge. Regina Rowland deepened the learnings through her graphic recording.
Talk about unleashing creative energy! Exploring the challenge of designing for disassembly, the “Connectors” team looked to sawfly and damselfly wings to inspire interlocking and reversable joint attachments. Climate change impacts of rising sea levels and increasing flooding led another team to design buildings that rise in response to rising water inspired by turgor pressure in plants.
Student feedback was very enthusiastic and positive!
“I wasn’t infected with biomimicry during the workshop though; the reason been I was already infected when I got there. However, after been directly exposed to biomimicry, you can say I am now highly infectious and can’t wait to spread the virus.” – Luciana Botner Vieira
“Meaningful and hands-on knowledge about biomimicry. You can enter the workshop without knowing a thing about biomimicry and leave feeling fully capable of implementing it into your work and life!” – Nicole Isle, Sustainability Consultant, Brightworks
“Amazing experience. Much more than a design tool, biomimicry can be a life-changing way of thinking and a great opportunity to reconnect with nature.” – Anderson da Silva Santos, Product Designer, Natura
“Biomimicry is a powerful tool for designers pursuing regenerative design and development. It provides exercises and processes that help designers to understand and create conditions conducive to life.” – PhaedraSvec, Architect, BNIM
“Well-done, organized, fun and informative, innovative and inspiring.” – Marsha Forthofer, Kimberly Clark