This unique interdisciplinary curriculum is built around looking closely at the natural world using a jeweler's loupe. It has been used with kids and adults alike to promote thinking by analogy, creativity, critical thinking, and scientific literacy. 

The Private Eye encourages creativity and inquiry-based learning through hands-on exploration of the natural world, asking questions, looking for patterns and functions, and experimentation. While not written as a curriculum, the methodologies of The Private Eye—rooted in observation and thinking by analogy—provide a perfect platform for biomimicry education.

As students observe organisms they are encouraged to ask and answer questions such as:

  • What else does it remind me of? What else does it look like? What else?
  • Why did it remind me of that?
  • Why is it like that?
  • If it reminds me of ___, I wonder if it might function or work like that in some way.

This curriculum was started in 1989 by award-winning educator, Kerry Ruef, and has been widely used in the Seattle school system and elsewhere.  A 2015 article in Microscopy Today is helpful for understanding this project.

The Private Eye website offers a downloadable brochure, a selection of free materials and activities which can help one get an idea of what this curriculum can do, and correlations to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards for Literacy and Mathematics. There is also a store where you can buy the Teacher Guide book (about $30), activity sheet packets, loupes, and kits for collecting natural artifacts to explore.

According to the website:

“With The Private Eye jeweler’s loupe + questions, students magnify not only the world but their own minds. As students employ The Private Eye strategy, their interest in a subject soars. They begin by making simple, personal, loupe-observation lists (answering: “What else does it remind me of? What else? What else? What else?”); they expand their lists into poems, essays, journals; they loupe-draw (a form of close observation). With ease students move into The Private Eye hypothesizing step (“If it reminds me of that, might it function like that?”) then test their guesses. In this way they become efficient learners, fluidly making and mining connections… You’ll see how form and function are intertwined in nature and will exploit that link for hypothesizing. You’ll see the diversity of life but also—with the analogy-provoking questions—the underlying unity of life.”