This active 15-30 min exercise demonstrates, in an experiential way, the principles of self-organization, emergence and feedback. It can also be extended into a design exercise.

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Some of nature’s most fascinating phenomena exhibit self-organization, emergence, and feedback loops. The activity is useful to help students of all ages grasp how these principles work and impact system dynamics. A number of variations are possible and they have become a staple of biomimicry workshops.  This activity is best done outdoors where there is lots of room to run around.

From the author:

This is a chance for players to experience, first-hand, how self-organization happens: they each follow simple rules without coordinating with others, and yet the combined individual activities create a pattern that no one player directed. It seems best not to offer any explanation beforehand, but rather let the players ask how the pattern formed. Once players have seen this take shape, they can be told of the importance of self-organization and emergence in the field of Biology and bio-inspired design. Further, they can be taught the key role of feedback in this process, the components of feedback and the types (positive and negative).

In the extension, players can be instructed in how nature has a few recurring spatial patterns, why these patterns are common, and how different patterns are good for solving different challenges.

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