Sustainability Leaders Network Deepening Learning & Practice for People & Planet
Learning from Nature: A Course in Biomimicry
An open-source curriculum by Sustainability Leaders Network designed to strengthen and inform the biomimicry movement among educators and learners locally and around the world.
The more our world functions like the natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours, but not ours alone. – Janine Benyus, leading biomimicry scholar
What is biomimicry?
Biomimicry is a growing discipline that studies nature’s systems and then imitates these designs and processes to sustainably solve current challenges. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example of biomimicry. Studying the intertwined complexities of a watershed to understand systems thinking is another. While biomimicry may be an emerging discipline in western culture, it is preceded by the practice of biomimicry embedded in many indigenous cultures.
Why teach biomimicry?
Using biomimicry, you can help expose your students to new ways of knowing and loving the natural world of their home. An overarching goal is to contribute to a shift in mindset – from seeing nature as something to exploit for short-term human benefit – to seeing nature as an invaluable teacher and model. This shift can help us understand how to regenerate natural resources, organize our societies, and live lightly on the Earth.
About this curriculum
This course offers an introduction to biomimicry and how to learn from nature. With an emphasis on getting outside and exploring the land around you, the biomimicry curriculum that we have designed, tested, and refined focuses on observing, appreciating and learning from nature and natural systems in your locality. Cognizant of the ways in which consumption and population growth have degraded our environment, we focus on positive solutions learned from nature and ways to take meaningful action.
I know all of the statistics of destruction, but I have chosen to come to this out of love, because I love this place. And I want to stay here. I want to stay home. – Janine Benyus
Through this course, teachers and learners alike will:
- Become knowledgeable and enthusiastic about biomimicry.
- Get outside and strengthen relationships with the local environment.
- Learn to better recognize, observe, and think creatively about processes and systems in nature.
- Shift to see nature not as something to exploit, but as a teacher and model.
- Collaborate with nature to devise and apply practical solutions to current challenges.
- Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine Benyus
- Dancing with Systems by Donella Meadows
- Additional short articles, resources, and websites as assigned
I. Introduction to Biomimicry and Systems
- Introduction to One Another and Biomimicry
- What is Biomimicry?
- What is a System?
- A Biomimicry Approach to Change
II. Innovation Inspired By Nature
- A Focus on Shelters
- Completing Shelters
- Example Field Trip to Luna Bleu Farm: A Focus on Food
- A Focus on Healing Ourselves
- Example Field Trip to the Living Machine Rest Stop: A Focus on Cleansing and Energy
- A Focus on Storing Knowledge
- A Focus on Conducting Business
III. Being a Biomimic: Designing and Acting to Change Systems
- Creating with Nature and Being a Biomimic
The complete curriculum is provided here, including field trip examples and an outline of the general preparation needed to teach the course, in addition to slides and other handouts.
Using our curriculum and providing feedback
Our curriculum is flexible in terms of content and order, encouraging adaptation to local surroundings and realities, and getting students outside as much as possible. With minor adjustments, it can be made appropriate for a learner of nearly any age, including teenagers, university students, and adults. Our pilot course was taught to 9th and 10th grade students at The Sharon Academy in Vermont. This curriculum may only be used for not-for-profit, educational purposes.
When using the course, please credit the Sustainability Leaders Network and let us know of your successes and lessons learned, in addition to where you are teaching and the approximate age and number of your students. Please do this via a comment at the bottom of this page or by writing to us: info [at] sustainabilityleadersnetwork [dot] org. This information is important to us for measuring project impact and making improvements. Like nature, we are always evolving.
Acknowledgements and credits
A great deal of thanks is due to Janine Benyus, Dayna Baumeister, and the staff at Biomimicry 3.8 who have built a rich foundation from which courses like ours can grow. We are grateful to administrators and students at The Sharon Academy who supported and participated in our pilot teaching of this semester-long course. Their feedback was valuable in refining the curriculum that we share here.
We are also grateful to our donors the New England Environmental Education Association (NEEEA), who awarded us an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, and the Wellborn Ecology Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF). Please note: Although our curriculum was funded in part by the EPA, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.
Edie Farwell and Dominic Stucker designed the original curriculum, Edie taught the course at The Sharon Academy in autumn 2012, and Dominic Stucker and Alex Bauermeister further developed the course for publication.
© Copyright 2011