Now Live: TGR EDU: Explore’s Following Nature’s Lead
Last week, TGR EDU: Explore launched its first digital module focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), Following Nature’s Lead, a 20-25-minute experience geared toward middle school students that is aligned with Next Generation Science Standards. Using this innovative tool, students will be given the opportunity to explore careers and engineering innovations through the lens of biomimicry.
Following Nature’s Lead was inspired by the TGR Learning Lab’s squid dissection lesson, but with an added twist that highlights a unique concept of biomimicry, or problem-solving through the emulation of natural models or systems. The task of bringing to life an actual squid dissection with a digital exploration lesson seemed overwhelming at first. However, over the course of many weeks of manuscript review and editing, then finally matching the artwork with the text, the TGR Learning Lab instructor team and Discovery Education brought the the lesson to life!
From the onset the goal was clear: we wanted to bring a squid dissection to classrooms and students who would traditionally not be able to engage in this type of lesson. The vivid and detailed artwork, as well as the added videos allow students to visualize the structures and functions of a squid’s external and internal anatomy, while also showing them connections between nature and the technological innovations we currently use. The careful intention to connect careers in the fields of science, engineering and technology to individuals in non-traditional roles offers students a widened perspective of possible career paths.
The digital lesson was designed to begin by building on prior knowledge, having students examine commonly known innovations inspired by nature. For example, participants learn how Velcro was influenced by the burdock plant. Next, the lesson explores the structures and function of a squid’s external and internal anatomy. This lesson leads into how biomimicry inspires individuals from diverse fields to work together to solve human problems. Our goal here was to enable educators to be able to approach the lesson as a group or have students navigate the lesson independently and then discuss their findings.
This lesson is truly enlightening, even to an educator like myself. I was very inspired by the diverse and complex research being done in the field of biomimicry. I found myself noticing nature more and wondering what we can learn from the plants and animals around us. This is when I realized that we had a lesson that would inspire teachers and students to explore more about careers in science and engineering and is filled with many innovative possibilities. I am especially excited to see how teachers can extend this lesson into a culminating unit project whereby students design and engineer “biomimetic” products for humans that are inspired by nature’s adaptations.
As you will no doubt see for yourself, Following Nature’s Lead is a beautifully designed experience. It is accompanied by an Educator Guide that offers recommendations for instructors in a variety of learning environments, in addition to providing discussion questions and a list of standards to which the module is aligned.
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