In this short activity students reflect on familiar human designed objects in terms of their function and identify inspiration from nature that could improve them.


  • Students will identify the functions and related structures of familiar objects.
  • Students will relate the function(s) of a designed object to similar functions found in nature.
  • Students will generate ideas for improving a designed object.

The practice of requires the ability to connect the functions needed in a human design with biological phenomena that could serve as inspiration for solutions. This activity helps students practice identifying functions, starting with familiar human-designed objects (a shoe, a cell phone, a car, and a building).

Students are presented with one or more images of objects and asked to answer a series of questions that prompt them to reflect on what the object is used for, and what parts or features of the object help it function. Then they consider what examples in nature have similar functions and how they might apply ideas from nature to improve the human design.

This activity can be done as a class exercise by presenting the images and questions on a shared screen, or in small groups/individually using printed pages as worksheets. Any number of different objects could be used for this exercise. In lieu of images, real objects could also be brought into class.