Share it! Science

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Poetry and Engineering Inspired by Nature!

I am thrilled to be reviewing Karen Ansberry's new book: Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry, as well as sharing some related STEM activity ideas. In this wonderful new picture book you'll find short poems highlighting the impressive adaptations of plants and animals followed by the story of how these adaptations have inspired engineers to solve a human problem. Nature Did It First is the perfect introduction to nature inspired STEM engineering challenges.
Nature Did It First Engineering Through Biomimicry STEM Activity

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Nature Did it First: Engineering Through Biomimicry

The author of Nature Did It First, Karen Ansberry, is a former classroom teacher and co-author of one of my favorite elementary science curriculum resources, Picture-Perfect Science Lessons. Ansberry is a master of combining science concepts, story and engaging STEM activities. (Not to mention an awesome facilitator for science education professional development, I have been lucky enough to attend her workshops, they are great!)

We really enjoyed reading Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry at our house. It is the perfect mix of fun little poems and really interesting information about how animals like geckos and kingfishers and plants like burrs have influenced engineers to solve human problems. I also really like that there are materials and additional resources available for teachers at the end of the book and online, including a free STEM lesson plan found here.

What is Biomimicry?

First of all, what is biomimicry anyway? If you break down the word, into "bio" and "mimic" you probably can figure it out. Biomimicry is the process of designing nature-inspired solutions to human problems. It is mimicking what we find in nature to help us in our daily lives.

Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry explores 7 interesting plants and animals and how their natural features inspired engineers in their designs.

Student Engineering Biomimcry Inspired by Nature

Nature Did It First! 

As I read this book to my daughter, I was surprised by many of the ways that animal and plant behavior or physical adaptations have been incorporated into designs in the human world.

Did you know that gecko toes have inspired the development of adhesives?

Gecko Nature Did It First Biomimicry Engineering STEM Challenge

Did you know that the fins of humpback whales helped engineers design more smooth and efficient windmill and water turbine blades? 

Humpback Whale Nature Did It First Biomimicry Engineering STEM Challenge

How about this- did you know that the slippery surface of a pitcher plant inspired a material that helps ketchup slide out of bottles more readily?

Pitcher Plant Nature Did It First Biomimicry Engineering STEM Challenge

These are just a few of the wild ways humans have been inspired by nature! You'll find several more fascinating examples when you read Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry. This book would be a fantastic introduction to a STEM lesson at school, or the perfect read-aloud for nature-loving children at home. I highly recommend it!

Adaptation and Biomimicry Activities

To get children learning and thinking about the different features of animals, send them on an animal adaptation scavenger hunt! Read about the adaptations of sloths, anteaters and armadillos in this post, then download a FREE adaptation scavenger hunt card (link at bottom of post) that you can use to search for household items that have similar features or uses as these animal adaptations. [If you prefer, you can also download this scavenger hunt for free on my Teachers Pay Teachers page.]

How is camouflage used in the natural world and human world? Explore some fun camouflage science activities and find some related book suggestions here.

Children and students can design an animal in the amazing adaptations art activity included in my International Sloth Day post here.

Amazing Animal Adaptations Art STEAM Activity

Don't miss the awesome STEM challenge and teaching materials available in the back of Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry and free downloads for grades K-2 and 3-5 found at the book's webpage here

In this engineering challenge, students will study nature, brainstorm a problem that can be solved by an idea from nature, brainstorm and design an invention, build a model and share their creation. An added language arts component could be to write a poem about the natural idea they investigated, similar to the wonderful poetry in Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry.

Many, many thanks to Karen Ansberry for sharing her wonderful book with me! 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

T. Rex Tracks: A Math and Science Activity with Turtle Trails Publishing

I am thrilled to share this guest post from my friend Carla from Turtle Trails Publishing. You may also know her from the excellent learning activities she shares at Preschool Powol Packets and Teaching Without Chairs. Your kids are going to love getting outside and trying this dinosaur-themed STEM activity!

Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most popular dinosaurs of all time for a lot of reasons, but how much do you actually know about this dinosaur? I have an awesome science + math activity you about T. Rexes for you and your kiddos today!

T. Rex Dinosaur Math and Science Activity

Hi! My name is Carla Mae Jansen, and I recently finished writing A Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze, a picture book about the rock cycle (more on that below!). Anyway, since I’ve been working on this book we have been doing a ton of dinosaur activities lately--partly because the book is on everybody’s minds and partly because we all love dinosaurs! Seriously, I think there’s a part of me that will be seven forever.

Anyway, today I’m excited to share this T. Rex Tracks activity with you! It’s a low-prep, easy to do dinosaur activity that has your kids use science reasoning and math skills to create T. Rex “tracks!” 

Simple Supplies:

1- Track Markers (masking tape OR paper OR sidewalk chalk if you’re outside!)
2- Measuring tape or rulers

Easy How To:

1- To begin, ask your kids to guess how tall their legs are. Most kid legs will be 2-3 feet high. Tell them that most T. Rex legs were about 11 feet high! Measure 11 feet high along a wall, and see where the T. Rex leg would be! The rim of our basketball hoop was right at 11 feet...and yes, my 7 year old can climb straight up to it!

T. Rex Dinosaur Math and Science Activity

2- When we did this, I told the kids that since T. Rex legs were so tall, their steps were HUGE! But before we looked at T. Rex steps, let’s see what kid steps look like. Let the kids work in teams to mark a set of kid “tracks” showing at least 10 steps.  Is this different if they run?

3- Ask your kids how many kid steps they think would fit inside of one T. Rex step (or stride). If you have paper, write down their guesses. Since we were outside, we just talked about it.

4- Ask the kids how they can figure out how many kid steps fit inside on T. Rex step. It might help them to know that T. Rex steps when walking were about 5 feet long and when running were about 12 feet long!  According to our measurements, my 4-year would have to 6 steps to keep up with a T. Rex, my 7-year old would have to run 4 steps for every 1 T. Rex step, and my 10 year old would have to run 3 mighty leaps to keep up.

T. Rex Dinosaur Math and Science Activity

How close were their guesses from #3?

T. Rex Fun Fact: Some researchers believe that T. Rexes could have run up to 20 miles per hour, but would not have run faster than that because if they were to fall going any faster the crash would have killed them!

To finish off the fun, we read A Dinosaur Made Me Sneeze!

This is my new dinosaur-themed, science-based picture book!  It’s a delightful rhyming story that introduces rock cycle science (complete with vocabulary like “sedimentary,” “igneous,” “metamorphic,” and more!) with fantastic characters and a hilarious story! It showcases the changes that the Earth and rocks on the Earth make as years go by. You can learn more about it, see some of the illustrations, and more HERE! I really hope you love it!!

T. Rex Dinosaur Math and Science Activity

I hope you have a “roar-some” time with your T. Rex tracks!! 

Thanks again for letting me join you, and happy educating!

Carla Mae Jansen

Carla Mae Jansen is an educator, author, and mom who lives in Virginia, USA. She loves going rock-hunting, eating chocolate, and exploring new places with her family. She has a master’s degree in teaching science, and is always looking for something new to learn! You can follow along with her publishing adventures at Turtle Trails Publishing.