What is Biomimicry?

For Summer 2017, we will offer a series of camps connecting kids to nature through biomimicry.  Janine Benyus coined the term biomimicry and defines it as "a practice that studies nature's best ideas, and then emulates these designs to address humanity's most important technological challenges."  It's all about innovation.

By studying a plant or animal's adaptations, we can discover solutions to every day problems that are often extremely efficient (and "green") because nature cannot afford to be wasteful.  We're willing to bet that your child can think of a problem that needs solving.  And there's probably a resource intensive solution that depends on fossil fuels.  But what if instead of using nature (that's what we're doing when we harvest fossil fuels), we emulate nature?

In our camp, kids will study the adaptations of the creatures they are actually seeing and then draw and describe them, whether they are something that the creature is doing or a physical feature of the creature.  The kids will then use one or more of their studied adaptations to propose a solution to a problem that they identify.  And, then, using mostly recycled or low impact materials, they will construct a model that demonstrates the solution.

During a prior summer, we piloted this program.  Imagine my surprise when a camper who had just completed second grade invented a new way to separate the 101 as it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge with moveable dividers built to look like bromeliads (making it prettier than the yellow poles that existed at the time, and the grey "Lego" wall that exist now, I might add), that would both purify the air with an internal fan and filter system, and collect rain water in its cups and release it slowly along a channel that would divert it to plants at either end of the bridge.  She had fallen in love with the bromeliad and its adaptations when we visited the Conservatory of Flowers for inspiration.  And she had noted the problem crossing the bridge to and from an after school class in the car with her mom every week.

To say that I can't wait to see the models that will be built by this year's biomimicry session campers is an understatement. : )  We'll be playing tons of games to get the biomimicry concept across in a kid-friendly way and looking for inspiration in some incredibly inspiring places like Green Gulch Farm, for example.

As always, we'd love your feedback.  See you on the trail!