The study of biomimicry and sustainable design promises great benefits in design applications, offering cost-effective, resourceful, non-polluting avenues for new enterprise. An important final caveat for students to understand is that once copied, species are not expendable. Biomimicry is intended to help people by identifying natural functions from which to pattern human-driven services. Biomimicry was never intended to replace species. Ecosystems remain in critical need of ongoing protection and biodiversity must be preserved for the overall health of the planet. This activity addresses the negative ramifications of species decline. For example, pollinators such as bees are a vital work force in agriculture. They perform an irreplaceable task in ensuring the harvest of most fruit and vegetable crops. In the face of the unexplained colony collapse disorder, we are only now beginning to understand how invaluable these insects are in keeping food costs down and even making the existence of these foods possible for humans.
High School Ecology
With a continued focus on the Sonoran Desert, students are introduced to the concepts of biomes, limiting factors (resources), carrying capacity and growth curves through a PowerPoint® presentation. Abiotic factors (temperature, annual precipitation, seasons, etc.) determine the biome landscape. The vegetative component, as producers, determines the types of consumers that form its various communities. Students learn how the type and quantity of available resources defines how many organisms can be supported within the community, as well as its particular resident species. Students use mathematical models of natural relationships (in this case, sigmoid and exponential growth curves) to analyze population information and build upon it. With this understanding, students are able to explain how carrying capacity is determined by the limiting factors within the community and feeding relationships. By studying these ecological relationships, students see the connection between ecological relationships of organisms and the fundamentals of engineering design, adding to their base of knowledge towards solving the grand challenge posed in this unit.
Students are introduced to the concepts of biomimicry and sustainable design. Countless examples illustrate the wisdom of nature in how organisms are adapted for survival, such as in body style, physiological processes, water conservation, thermal radiation and mutualistic relationships, to assure species perpetuation. Students learn from articles and videos, building a framework of evidence substantiating the indisputable fact that organisms operate "smarter" and thus provide humans with inspiration in how to improve products, systems and cities. As students focus on applying the ecological principles of the previous lessons to the future design of our human-centered world, they also learn that often our practices are incapable of replicating the precision in which nature completes certain functions, as evidenced by our dependence on bees as pollinators of the human food supply. The message of biomimicry is one of respect: study to improve human practices and ultimately protect natural systems. This heightened appreciation helps students to grasp the value of industry and urban mimetic designs to assure protection of global resources, minimize human impact and conserve nonrenewable resources. All of these issues aid students in creating a viable guest resort in the Sonoran Desert.
Students are challenged to design a method for separating steel from aluminum based on magnetic properties as is frequently done in recycling operations. To complicate the challenge, the magnet used to separate the steel must be able to be switched off to allow for the recollection of the steel. Students must ultimately design, test, and present an effective electromagnet.
The computer program's simulation of a Sonoran desert community should ultimately strengthen the student's comprehension of what is required for a natural ecosystem to sustain itself (remain in balance). This computer simulation program has great flexibility. It allows the student to manipulate the population numbers of five Sonoran Desert species. A species natural history attachment provides vital information for the students to familiarize themselves with each species' behaviors, its niche and food resource needs. The program includes two producers, the Saguaro cactus and the Ironwood Tree. It also includes 3 consumers, but their interactions both toward the producers and each other differ. The community's ability to remain in balance and sustain all five species so that none die out rests on the student's assessment skills enabling him to correctly identify these dependencies. The student learns by trial and error as he continues to fine tune the ecosystem that he maintains stewardship of.
Is the food chain shown above accurate? Does the first link depict a producer, the second link a herbivore, and the third link an omnivore / carnivore? Students must correctly determine whether a species is a producer or consumer, and what type of consumer; herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. Students are provided with a list of Sonoran Desert species and asked to construct, within their groups, several food chains. These food chains are then be used to construct a food web. In order to complete this activity, students must first research the individual species to understand their feeding habits.
Students are challenged to design a permanent guest village within the Saguaro National Park in Arizona. The design must provide a true desert experience to visitors while emphasizing sustainable design, protection of the natural environment, and energy and resource conservation. To successfully address and respond to this challenge, students must acquire an understanding of desert ecology, environmental limiting factors, species adaptations and resource utilization. Following theintroduction, students generate ideas and consider the knowledge required to complete the challenge. The lectures and activities that follow serve to develop this level of comprehension. To introduce the concepts of healthy ecosystems, biomimetics and the importance of sustainable environmental design, students watch three video clips of experts. These clips provide direction for student research and challenge design solutions.
This lesson is about the flow of energy in ecosystems. The setting is Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, where students will learn about the first Thanksgiving meal in America, celebrated in 1621 by early American settlers and Wampanoag Indians. By examining this meal and comparing it to a modern day Thanksgiving celebration, students will be able to explore the way in which food energy moves and is transformed in an ecosystem. The learning goals focus on the movement of energy from one feeding level to the next within a food web, the way in which energy changes form, and the inefficiency of energy transfer, which in turn affects the availability of food energy for organisms at the highest feeding level. The lesson is directed at high school level biology students. Students should be familiar already with food webs, food chains, and trophic (feeding) levels. They should also be familiar with the general equations for photosynthesis (CO2 + H2O => C6H12O6) and cell respiration (C6H12O6 => CO2 + H2O), and understand the basic purpose of these processes in nature. This lesson can be completed during one long classroom period, or can be divided over two or more class meetings. The duration of the lesson will depend on prior knowledge of the students and on the amount of time allotted for student discussion. There are no supplies required for this lesson other than the downloadable worksheets (accessed on this BLOSSOMS site), paper and some glue or tape.
The major goal of this lesson is to provide students with some of the tools they will need to analyze and solve the many complex problems they will face during their lifetimes. In the lesson, students learn to use Flow Charts and Feedback Diagrams to analyze a very complex problem of ecological sustainability. The lesson looks at a specific case study—from my home town in the Philippines—of the Live Reef Fish Trade now threatening survival of the Coral Reef Triangle of Southeast Asia. Live reef fish have long been traded around Southeast Asia as a luxury food item, but in recent decades trade in fish captured on coral reefs has expanded rapidly. Although the trade has provided communities with additional income, these benefits are unsustainable and have come at considerable cost to the environment. This lesson begins by having students analyze a familiar or personal problem, using Flow Charts and Feedback Diagrams, and then moves on to the application of those tools to a complex environmental problem. The lesson could be completed in a 50-minute class session, but using it over two class sessions would be preferable. Everything needed for the lesson is downloadable from the BLOSSOMS website, including blank Flow Charts and Feedback Diagrams, as well as articles on the Philippines case study from the World Wildlife Fund and the United States Agency for International Development.
With a continued focus on the Sonoran Desert, students are introduced to the concepts of food chains and food webs through a PowerPoint® presentation. They learn the difference between producers and consumers and study how these organisms function within their communities as participants in various food chains. They further understand ecosystem differences by learning how multiple food chains link together to form intricate and balanced food webs. At lesson end, students construct food webs using endemic desert species.
During a scavenger hunt and an art project, students learn how to use a handheld GPS receiver for personal navigation. Teachers can request assistance from the Institute of Navigation to find nearby members with experience in using GPS and in locating receivers to use.
Students explore heat transfer and energy efficiency using the context of energy efficient houses. They gain a solid understanding of the three types of heat transfer: radiation, convection and conduction, which are explained in detail and related to the real world. They learn about the many ways solar energy is used as a renewable energy source to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and operating costs. Students also explore ways in which a device can capitalize on the methods of heat transfer to produce a beneficial result. They are given the tools to calculate the heat transferred between a system and its surroundings.
Students learn about geotechnical engineers and their use of physical properties, such as soil density, to determine the ability of various soils to offer support to foundations. In an associated activity, students determine the bulk densities of soil samples, and assess their suitability to support foundations.
Students determine the mass and volume of soil samples and calculate the density of the soils. They use this information to determine the suitability of the soil to support a building foundation.
Earth contains a variety of plants to provide food, medicine and, most importantly, energy sources for humans. In this lesson, students will categorize plants by their components and shapes. Additionally, they will learn the mechanisms behind the making of medicines and bio-fuels. It is important that the students have prior knowledge of the plant cell structures and functions. The video duration is 21 minutes, during which the students will use skills such as classification and experimentation. The students must therefore be supplied with various samples of plants. In Arabic with English subtitles.
This lesson focuses on the process of pollination. The learning objectives include learning the anatomy and physiology of flowers, the ecology of pollination, and a focus on plants as essential players in the natural world. There are no prerequisites for the lesson. The lesson will take 1½ hours, or 2 class periods or more -- depending on the areas teachers want to spend more time on or how far in depth they want their students to go. Materials needed are colored modeling clay, 8 or more assorted fresh flowers or pictures of flowers, preferably native to the local ecosystem. Dissecting microscopes or magnifying glasses are great for examining the fresh flowers, but not necessary. Additionally, pictures of different subjects/objects amongst plants are needed for the last activity. Activities for the breaks include assessing student knowledge of flowers by model building, and examining flowers to determine and distinguish between the pollination anatomy of different flowers.
Students become familiar with the online Renewable Energy Living Lab interface and access its real-world solar energy data to evaluate the potential for solar generation in various U.S. locations. They become familiar with where the most common sources of renewable energy are distributed across the U.S. Through this activity, students and teachers gain familiarity with the living lab's GIS graphic interface and query functions, and are exposed to the available data in renewable energy databases, learning how to query to find specific information for specific purposes. The activity is intended as a "training" activity prior to conducting activities such as The Bright Idea activity, which includes a definitive and extensive end product (a feasibility plan) for students to create.
Students build on their understanding and feel for flow rates, as gained from the associated Faucet Flow Rate activity, to estimate the flow rate of a local river. The objective is to be able to relate laboratory experiment results to the environment. They use the U.S. Geological Survey website (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) to determine the actual flow rate data for their river, and compare their estimates to the actual flow rate. For this activity to be successful, choose a nearby river and take a field trip or show a video so students gain a visual feel for the flow of the nearby river.
Prior to reaching households, water is exposed to a variety of treatments designed to render it fit for human consumption and use. One of the first treatment steps is the removal of suspended solids using chemical additives called flocculants. In this activity, students learn about two commonly used flocculants and clean water collected from a local pond or river. They experiment with flocculant, stirring and pH variables.