This collection of activities will help you begin to incorporate biomimicry through engineering design challenges in your middle school classroom.


At the middle school level, the potential to tie the concept of into the curriculum expands as the content students cover both widens and deepens. Whether you are teaching Physical Sciences, Earth and Space Science, Life Sciences, integrated Science or Engineering Design, there are plenty of opportunities for students to mimic function in nature to solve a similar human problem.

Relevant Standards

Below are some paraphrased examples of places within the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs) of the middle school Next Generation Science Standards subject matter that make good sense to bring in biomimicry. To read more about the standards and three dimensions, please click on the links.

Middle School Engineering Design Concepts

  • Precisely define the criteria and constraints of a problem (MS-ETS1-1)
  • Evaluate competing design solutions (MS-ETS1-2)
  • Analyze data from tests, identify best characteristics, and improve design (MS-ETS1-3)
  • Develop a model for iterative testing that leads to optimal design (MS-ETS1-4)

Physical Sciences Concepts

  • Design a device that releases or absorbs thermal energy by chemical processes (MS-PS1-6)
  • Design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects (MS-PS2-1)
  • Design a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer (MS-PS3-1)

Life Sciences Concepts

  • Evaluate design solutions for maintaining and ecosystem services (MS-LS2-5)

Earth and Space Sciences Concepts

  • Design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment (MS-ESS3-3)

Words for Birds

An important skill that applies to biomimicry is the ability to closely observe and describe traits of an organism. Within the Introduction to the Nature Journal lesson, the Words for Birds activity (page 6) uses birds for this purpose, but the exercise could be completed with other organisms just as easily. Students observe and describe a bird, and then share it with the class and see if they can guess which bird it was by the description. The activity can be followed with a trip outside to observe real birds. The activity includes a handout to help students hone in on important details and adaptations.

Design Inspired by Nature: Reverse Engineering

In this exploratory activity middle schoolers dissect common flowers to look at them from a new perspective. With the guidance of a worksheet, students break the flower into its components and carefully consider their structures, colors and functions. They then flip to the role of engineer, taking inspiration from the flower structures and functions to design a solution to a similar human problem.

When introducing example innovations and their inspirations as part of this activity, consider showing example Biological Strategy pages and corresponding Innovation pages from AskNature.

You also may want to consider tying in the Pre-activity Assessment from this activity (Listening to Nature, p.5) as an extension of the Words for Birds activity above.

Biomimicry Examples

Now that students have dabbled in design inspired by nature, share with them a variety of exciting examples. Share short, high-quality videos and/or podcasts that concisely present examples. Students could be assigned a case study to watch or listen about, then report back to the class and discuss.

Then, have students work through the Ask Nature Scavenger Hunt to learn how to utilize the wealth of information about Biological Strategies and Innovations on the AskNature site.

Extended Learning: Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge

The Biomimicry Institute’s Youth Design Challenge is a free design competition and project based learning experience that empowers students in grades 6-12 to reimagine a sustainable world with nature-inspired design. Learn more and register at