June 18, 2024


International Student Club UK

Design and biomimicry with Year Two – Mr. Hill's Musings

Design and biomimicry with Year Two – Mr. Hill’s Musings

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Year Two students and teachers as part of their How We Express Ourselves unit. This was a fantastic opportunity to get creative with the little ones and apply our approach to design in the lower grades: Think, Make, Improve.

Think, Make, Improve is the creative process outlined in Invent To Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Libow Martinez (a book that I highly recommend!). For teachers, the TMI acronym has additional meanings to represent the problems that are commonly associated with creativity in schools: Too Many Interruptions, Too Much Instruction and Too Much Intervention. We referred to the TMI graphic throughout this unit.

Central Idea: Exploring nature through different lenses promotes inspiration for expression and innovation

Lines of Inquiry:

  1. Exploring nature through different lenses
  2. How observing nature inspires expression and innovation
  3. How we use nature as inspiration to express and innovate

Related Concepts: Inspiration, Nature, Expression

Below are a few design highlights from this Year Two unit:

Beach umbrellas

How might we design a beach umbrella that gives shade but does not blow away when windy? Inspired by this Mystery Science lesson, the students analysed the features of trees to consider why they don’t blow away in the wind. They then applied this understanding to beach umbrellas. Using the Crazy 8 ideation strategy, they generated ideas to address this common problem (see the main image of this post).

In the next lesson, students prototyped using general craft materials and tested their umbrellas using Kinetic Sand and a hairdryer! I was blown away (no pun intended) by their creative confidence and willingness to continually improve their designs. The most successful groups tested over and over again and found a new way to improve their umbrellas every time!

Waterproof boats

The students realised that their origami boats don’t actually work in water because they’re not waterproof. So, how is this problem solved in nature? They had been learning about special plants with their class teachers and, in particular, waterproof leaves. They explored different leaves to see if there was anything special about them that we could apply to the boats. To make it even more challenging, we used paper towels – disastrous for boats!

They realised that the leaves had a wax-like texture and they attempted to recreate it using different media. With pipettes (borrowed from the secondary science department), they carefully dropped water onto the paper towels to see if any of the coatings successfully protected them. The pastels, in particular, were surprisingly effective! They made their boats and successfully tested them in water. The boats also held weight and kept their shape even after being dunked under! These young problem-solvers nailed it!


One class had been learning about Frank Lloyd Wright and how nature inspired his work. After reading The Shape of the World: A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, they were inspired to redesign or school campus, taking inspiration from patterns, colours, shapes and textures found in nature. This was a fabulous opportunity to introduce students to Makedo and the endless possibilities of creating with cardboard!

Video game controllers

Before the unit, some Year Two classes showed a real interest in circuitry and, in particular, Makey Makey. Therefore, we planned to design and make video game controllers anyway. But since we were into this biomimicry unit, we encouraged students to take inspiration from nature. Again, they could consider patterns, colours, shapes and textures.

They then built their controllers using cardboard and conductive materials. We connected them to the laptops via Makey Makey and students were able to play their favourite video games. Actually, it wasn’t just the children! Check out Andrea Kavanagh‘s awesome creation!

This unit was an absolute blast and the Year Two students were awesome! As someone who has limited experience with lower grades, I developed a better understanding of what younger students are capable of and how to scaffold their learning. I look forward to many more collaborations with the Year Two team!

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