Biomimicry what? Yes, I know that’s not a word you often hear floating around. But you will. It isn’t a new concept per se, but it is now officially a discipline and a rapidly growing one because the technology that supports it is becoming more sophisticated, and it has the potential to yield solutions for sustainable design and climate change.
The reason I’m bringing you into the conversation is because biomimicry will be a major discipline by the time our children are launching careers, and because learning the sciences around biomimicry could equate with huge life advantages for our children, and because it is likely that related technologies will become accessible to our children sooner than we think, likely in high school and possibly even as early as middle school.
Biomimicry is when we copy nature’s design in our own human designs. The way airplanes are modeled on birds or the burr (that thing that sticks to your pants when you walk through tall grass) inspired the invention of Velcro.
Those are dated examples. Here are some more modern examples.
Most of these modern examples are made possible by new technologies, mainly nanotechnologies. Nanotech is making biomimicry a game changer by allowing us to study nature’s designs at the atomic level. Being able to study the atomic structure of nature means that we can understand how it works on the deepest level and then apply that learning directly to our own design and engineering. Basically, nanotech is taking the guesswork out of our solutions. If you would like to learn more about nanotech, see the videos in my YouTube library.
Before we go on, I would encourage you to watch this inspiring video below by the “Queen Mother” of biomimicry, Janine Benyus. She explains it beautifully and makes it very clear why this growing discipline is going to be a critical vehicle for solution building in our children’s era.
…. Ahhhh. Don’t you wish you could take a college course by this woman? If you’re as into her as I am, consider following her Biomimicry Institute on Twitter.
So if you stuck it out for the entire video, you now not only understand biomimicry, but you understand how our evolving understanding of nature’s design can be directly applied to that big topic none of us like to talk about: climate change.
Yes, I know you are still fooling yourself into believing that climate change will not be the single most significant challenge our children face, but let me be that annoying voice in your head repeating “yes it will” over and over.
But here’s what’s important for you as a parent. Never before has a generation had as many fantastic opportunities to create and innovate as our children will have. They will face some of humankind’s biggest challenges, but they will have humankind’s most powerful tools. And you have the ability now to position them for those opportunities.
At the rate nanotech is evolving, our children might have access to electron microscope technology as early as high school, perhaps earlier if the education field wakes up to the future. You can safely expect to see coursework on nanoscience in your child’s list of options before they graduate high school, unless the school they attend is located inside of a cave in a remote region of the world.
I would encourage you to get educated on nanoscience and biomimicry. You will be positioned to support your child at a key strategic moment in the growth of those areas, and your educational institutions may not manage to keep pace with the opportunities.
How can you get the ball rolling now?
The beauty of this is that children are instinctively drawn to nature and genuinely interested in understanding how it works. So really we are all born to learn biomimicry. Use and encourage your child’s innate fascination with nature to invite them to guess and problem solve around “how things work” in the natural observable world.
What makes a spider’s web so strong but so fragile? What makes water sit on some surfaces but absorb into others? What strategies do animals and plants use to protect themselves? Don’t try to answer any of those questions. That takes all the fun out of it! Encourage your child to guess, and challenge their guesses with more questions that push them to think further and further. Speaking as a mother who has done this, you won’t be sorry.
A final fun tidbit. One of my favorite video series to watch with my 9yo is Monster Bug Wars on YouTube. It’s a wonderful exploration of nature’s genius design, with two powerful creatures pitted against one another and the suspense of seeing which one’s design wins the battle. WARNING: it’s very graphic. NOT for young children. But it will absolutely thrill your elementary age child. And I suspect it will ignite a curiosity about design that you can leverage forward for bigger things. P.S. Bug scientists are probably going to be the Dot Com inventors of our children’s era.
Enjoy this fun journey with your children and look for more on nanoscience in future posts.