This unit, from the Engineering Is Elementary series, introduces elementary students to bio-inspired engineering.

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Science concepts related to organisms’ basic needs are reinforced as students learn about the function of frog skin, compare and contrast natural objects with technologies that have similar functions, and engage in an engineering design challenge. Lesson plans and materials may be purchased from the Museum of Science. Free videos are available demonstrating the curriculum in use in a classroom.

Membranes are thin layers that let helpful substances pass through and keep harmful substances out. In this unit, students learn to think like bioengineers as they design a model membrane to mimic the properties of real membranes in live organisms. The storybook Juan Daniel’s Futbol Frog sets the scene, as students read about a boy who engineers a membrane to keep a frog alive. Students learn how membranes function and apply their knowledge of the basic needs of living organisms to the engineering design challenge: designing a frog habitat with a model membrane that delivers just the right amount of water.

Edit Summary


  • Distinguish between objects found in the natural world and technologies designed by

  • Identify the problem(s) that an object solves.

  • Match an object found in the natural world to a technology with a similar function.

  • Recognize the role of bioengineers in designing technologies based on ideas from the natural

  • Identify the basic needs of organisms and explain how different organisms meet those needs.

  • Recognize that bioengineers look to the natural world to inspire the technologies that they

  • Implement the steps of the Engineering Design Process.

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