Biomimicry Science Fair Project Choice, Assignment, and Pre-Class Materials

I know some of you have yet to make up the first class, missed due to snow; however, I wanted to go ahead and post the following materials for those that attended class today (Thursday 23rd). If you are attending the make-up class next week then please do not read ahead until after you attend class on the 29th.




As you know your student will be choosing a biomimicry project for their science fair display.

For 5-7 year old students: the students may choose a project where they research a human problem and the animal/plant that solves a similar problem. They may then design a model, using the creatures key features, and present this as their project. Models should be fairly large, at least the size of a shoe box or larger.

For 8-12 year old students: the students will also choose a project where they research a human problem and the animal/plant that solves a similar problem. Not only will they design and build a solution but they must also test their design using replication and control. This age group will be responsible for data collection and making graphs (line or bar).

Both age groups will be required to develop a hypothesis and present a trifold poster. In the second class I will go over, in more detail, how the poster should be arranged and laid out.


  • biomimicry science fair ideas This document I put together with many different biomimicry science fair ideas that should be doable for the different age groups. These ideas are not set in stone and can be changed or modified. Each idea has “younger,” “older,” or “all ages” next to the title. This tells you if it’s suited for 5-7’s, 8-12’s or all ages 5-12.
  • Ask Nature is the Biomimicry Institute’s website for ideas about problem solving using nature. Type in either the animal/plant you’re interested in or the problem you want to solve, such as “climbing” or “self cleaning.”


Students of both age groups must come to class with the following:

  • A question they want to answer about a human problem and an animal or plant solution.
  • Some basic research about their chosen plant or animal
  • A hypothesis they want to test (or for younger students a model to build)
  • Experimental Design (rough) based on the plant or animal they want to study. For younger students this will be the design of their invention.


In the second class I will be going over scientific design with each parent and student, as well as discussing with the entire class, how to create their posters for display. For older students I will focus on replication and controls.

Here is a document that outlines what the posters will look like: SERC Home School Biomimicry Science Fair Poster Requirements

Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions McDonaldK@si.edu.

Home School Classes For Tomorrow (Wed.) January 22nd Are Cancelled Due to Inclement Weather

Please e-mail the instructor, Karen McDonald (McDonaldK@si.edu), if you can make the class for Thursday, January 23rd. Class times for the 23rd are 9-10 am for 5-7 yr. olds and 10:30 am-Noon for 8-12 yr. olds.

If you can’t make the Thursday class time please also e-mail. We will also hold a make-up session, an announcement for this make up time/date will be e-mailed out.

Stay safe out there!

Pre-Class Study Materials for the Home School Biomimicry Science Fair

Biomimicry Science Fair Pre-Class Materials

Next week will begin the first class of our Biomimicry science fair. Please remember that parents will be required to attend the SECOND class on February 5th or 6th about choosing a project topic. You are also welcome to sit in on the first class (January 22nd or 23d) if you wish to get a clearer understanding of the field of biomimicry and how it pertains to the research project the students will be conducting.



Students participating in a previous SERC Biomimicry science Fair


  • Biomimicry
  • Scientific method
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Variable
  • Control
  • Experimental design
  • Replication
  • Observation
  • Data
  • Conclusion

For All Ages (5-12):

http://www.ted.com/talks/janine_benyus_biomimicry_in_action.html Start with this (11 min.) video from the founder of the Biomimicry Institute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXA4ox1rY80 Here’s a documentary by the BBC and David Attenborough all about how people are mimicking the climbing powers of Geckos.

http://studyjams.scholastic.com/studyjams/jams/science/scientific-inquiry/scientific-methods.htm visit the Scholastic page to learn about the process of the scientific method. You can also take their quiz about the scientific method here: http://studyjams.scholastic.com/studyjams/jams/science/scientific-inquiry/scientific-methods.htm (best for 8-12 yr. old kids)

For ages 8-12 yrs.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/when-animals-inspire-inventions-59895396/ this is a nice short article, from the Smithsonian, about biomimicry.

http://www.asknature.org/ Visit the “Ask Nature” portal and type in a problem that you might want to solve, such as “cooling a house” or “climbing” or even something like “keeping clean.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyFi6BQfDik a short catchy video parody of Gangnam style about the scientific method. This is a bmp file (image) so you’ll have to print it directly (this is the home page: Please have students complete this worksheet and matching before class.

For 5-7 yrs.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/4406699/Scientific%20Method%20Cards%20GW.pdf These are printable cards that students can use to lay out the steps of the scientific method.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neeP9v_x3os this is the first in a series of 4 videos (about 15 minutes each) called Nature Tech: the Materials World (BBC), which explores the materials that nature is made out of and how humans are studying it.

For Parents (just because it’s funny)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2MhMsLn9B0 Monty Python scientific method video (5 min)

Home School Sneak Peek for Programs Spring 2014


This post is an early preview of the home school classes we’ll be offering for the 5-12 year old students (and one workshop for 10-13’s) this Spring at SERC. We are transitioning to a new registration system (yeah!) so registration will not begin until February 7th at 9 am, and it will be entirely online. You may download the paper form of this preview here:Spring 2014 Elementary-Middle grades

Please let me know if you have any questions (McDonaldK@si.edu)


Wednesdays: 5-7 year olds 9:00 – 10:00 am, 8-12 year olds 10:30 am – Noon and 1:30-3 pm.


Thursdays: 5-7 year olds 9:00 – 10:00 am, 8-12 year olds 10:30 am – Noon     

Hydraulics Workshops (1/2 Day): 10-13 yr. olds 9 am-Noon

Course Descriptions and Dates

You must sign up for an entire block of classes. If you cannot make a class you will be asked to make up the material with the instructor, either in person or through e-mail at McDonaldK@si.edu . Class content builds upon each lesson and it’s important for students to keep up with the course.

 Lab Science Block  (March 5th-April 3rd) 

  • Introduction to a Science Lab: Tools and Safety (March 5th or 6th) We will introduce students to commonly used items in a laboratory such as Erlenmeyer flasks, graduated cylinders, tongs, beakers, scales, and more. We’ll also discuss lab safety and how to use these tools.
  • Microscopes: Use, Scale, and Drawing (March 19th or 20th) Students will learn the difference between compound and dissecting scopes and how to use a dissecting scope properly. They will learn how to draw to scale (8-12’s) using a microscope and practice their skills.
  • Chemistry Lab (April 2nd or 3rd) We will hands-on lab with equipment learned in the previous classes, including testing soil and water pH, finding properties of unknown substances, and making mixtures.


Ornithology Block (April 16th-May 8th)

  • Feathers and External Anatomy of Birds (April 16th or 17th) Students will learn the major groups of feathers on the external anatomy of a bird and we’ll look at feathers under microscopes as well as discuss feather function.
  • Internal Anatomy and Eggs (April 30th or May 1st) We’ll explore the internal anatomy of birds that makes them adapted for flight. We will also examine their eggs, the layers of an egg, and conduct some experiments.
  • Flight and Design (May 7th or 8th) In this class we’ll discover how birds fly, the mechanisms of flight, and try our hand at designing gliders for flying.

Hydraulics Workshop (May 28th and 29th) When you sign up you must attend both 1/2 day workshops. 

  • Part 1: In part one of this workshop students will be introduced to the physics of hydraulics and pneumatics, liquid viscosity, and Pascal’s principles. We’ll begin asking some questions about application of hydraulics and designing our own simple machine. This will be different from the previous “blue crab class” in that we will be designing lifts, claws, and complex arms. Parents are encouraged to attend and help out.
  • Part 2: Students will create their own simple machine using hydraulics. This project can be taken home at the end of the class. Parents are encouraged to attend and help out in this class too.

Pre-Class Materials for the SERC Home School Science and Math in Action Block of Classes

Mean, Median, and Mode Learning Tools

I would like to use Legos to teach with for the next math class, but SERC doesn’t have enough blocks. Could anyone lend us a large container of Lego blocks for a couple of days? I would need to get them on Monday or Tuesday. Please e-mail me McDonaldK@si.edu.

REMEMBER: Keep an eye on our blog for any weather updates.


Mean, Median, and Mode (Image: Philip Martin free clip art)

Vocabulary (ALL AGES)

  • Mean
  • Median
  • Mode
  • Range
  • Divide


 All Ages (5-12)

I would like everyone to watch these videos, with the understanding that division will be too complex for the 5-7 year olds, but this is a great introduction (3 min) to mean, median, and mode:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C9LBF3b65s the mean, median, and mode Toads.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0grjKjxFlDc This is a Youtube video of the MMR Rap (see below) to help students learn mean, median, and mode:

The MMMR Rap (download here)

The M, The M, The MMMR Rap.
The M, The M, The MMMR Rap.

Now Mode, Mode, I’ve been told,
is the # that you see the most.

Median, Median, Median, is the man.
The man in the middle, the man in the middle.
Just line up the #’s the best you can
From smallest to largest,
From smallest to largest.

Now Mean, Mean, he is the best.
Of course he is better than all the rest.
Just add, add, add all your #’s,
and when you divide
you won’t believe your eyes-
you’ll only have one # to your surprise.

Last but not least is our friend the Range-
He isn’t the best, but he sure is strange.
You start with the Hiiiggghhhh and subtract
the Loooowwww!!!
You’ve got the Range and there is no mo’!

The M, The M, The MMMR Rap.
The M, The M, The MMMR Rap.
When you sing it out loud–it’s all just a snap!

http://www.kidsmathgamesonline.com/numbers/meanmedianmode.html this page has wonderful practice games online, for mean/median/mode. Younger students will need their parent’s help.

http://files.pbslearningmedia.org/dlos/tpt/landmarks/index.html here’s a fun online exercise using dog training to learn about mean, median, and mode. For ages 5-12 parents will need to help the students with the exercise.

http://lessons4now.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/mean-median-mode-posters.jpg here’s a free poster online that can help students remember mean, median, mode, and range.

http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/mean-median-mode-range.html the two free worksheets on this page are a good starting place for mean, median, mode, and range.

8-12 yr. (Only)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7MxGyEaN64  a fun hip song about mean, median, and mode

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNdVynH6hcY this is another catchy hip song and video about mean, median, and mode.

http://www.mathsisfun.com/median.html this page is best for the 8-12 year olds, and there are good practice questions at the bottom.


Happy Holidays from SERC to our Home School Community!

Before our staff go on break we wanted to post some materials for the Science and Math in Action class and also for the Ecosystems on the Edge film class.



For students in the science and math in action class I’ll post the final pre-class materials after the new year, but here are some resources to hold you over.

For those working on the gingerbread man quadrant graphing worksheet, here is the original (with the answer key drawn out) graphing_characters.pl.

For those that need practice with graphing here are a few worksheets that might help:

3rd grade graphing votes and pizza bar graphs

season’s bar graphing 3rd grade

worksheet on reading graphs


There is also a great video series all about the golden mean and Fibonacci sequence by Vi Hart. There are three parts and well worth watching over the holidays. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahXIMUkSXX0&feature=youtu.be

christmas_079_01_thmFILM CLASS

In the next class we will be reviewing the nearly completed videos that you are working on. Here is your assignment, before the next class:

SERC Film Class Final Film Showing Questions

As a part of the final film class you will be asked, as individuals, to present information to the audience about the film production process.

Please answer the following questions, and bring them with you to class. You may give me (Karen) either  a printed hard-copy version or you may choose to do a hard copy version along with a short film clip of yourself talking about your experience.  The film clip is optional. SERC Film Class Final Film Showing Questions

  1. Why did you sign up for the SERC documentary class? What was your goal?
  2. What interests you about documentary making?
  3. What did you contribute to the documentary that is being presented?
  4. What did you enjoy most about the experience of making this short documentary? (Give 2-3 things)
  5. What was most challenging? (Give 2-3 things)
  6. What do you think you will do with your new found filming skills?
  7. What information would you like to learn more about with regards to documentary making?

As promised here are the links from the last class on Green Screens:

A short history of Green Screens and film modification http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8aoUXjSfsI

A video about using green screens and lighting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3PZO_lCBkw

A kind of shaky intro on how to use green screen effects with Windows Movie Maker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6FkJxl8STw