“Better Living Through Imitation” Article Review
August 30th 2012
I was excited to receive my copy of Smithsonian Magazine, September 2012, focused on style and design. I foresee a great movement towards teaching design as a way to boost creativity and critical thinking in the classroom so I was thrilled to read the article, “Better Living Through Imitation” by Tom Vanderbilt. The idea behind the article rests in how biomimicry is influencing product design and service models through the study of the natural world.
Mr. Vanderbilt focuses on several examples showcasing the definition. Mark Miles, for example, developed a Mirasol display technology systems using the Morpho butterfly species color generative process. We see this technology in LCD televisions or computer screens. Or how Japan solved the problem of “tunnel boom” (compression of air and deafening sounds as a train exits a tunnel) using the biological beak makeup of the Kingfisher bird. When the new models of trains with the new “beak” design went into use in 1997, the intensity of the sonic booms decreased.
This article leads me to question if engineers and scientists can use the natural world to solve 21st century problems, why can’t we use the same principals of design-thinking to solve education problems? What if we, as a nation, started looking at how Leafcutter Ants cohesively organize their communities and apply similar dynamics towards district systems of learning? Or, what if we studied the wolf pack to determine how school bullies gain influence within a class setting?
The idea that biomimicry helps us understand natural systems in today’s world and helps to foster innovation can be applied to multiple fields. From fashion trends to technology to urban planning – fields are gaining inspiration from the natural world. This article begs the question – can this same process thinking be applied to education, too? Let us know what you think. Do you see evidence in the natural world that would help us answer education questions in a new and different way?