“Artsy Biomimicry” at Hill Center’s Young Artists Gallery

Tyler students creating sculptures

Second grade students at Tyler ES (1001 G St. SE) have been learning about biomimicry in art class.  Their teacher, Amanda Swift, explains that biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving human problems. ​ She chose to focus on this subject because there are examples of biomimicry in every day life such as Velcro (plant burrs), airplanes (birds), and solar panels (photosynthesis), to name a few. She used “Biomimicry, Inventions Inspires by Nature,” a book by Dora Lee and Margot Thompson, as a starting point for classroom conversation.

Each student was given a journal to document a problem of their choosing. They brainstormed animals and plants that could help to solve the problem, then sketched their designs.  They came up with some very clever ideas: Grayson, who wants to run across water without getting wet, created a “water walker” inspired by the Green Basilisk lizard. Azola needs to reach up high to grab things off of shelves; his invention is inspired by birds’ ability to grab things with their feet. Eliana designed a system to hang art on walls without damaging the paint or wood, inspired by a spider’s web – that one might prove useful in the Young Artists Gallery.

With their sketches completed, students formed an armature with foil, then wrapped it with plaster gauze, and added paint to provide detail on their finished sculptures. Ms. Swift thought the second graders would enjoy the bioengineering challenge and she was right. As Quincy and Taliyah put it: “We can learn more about nature and how we can copy stuff from nature.“ and “We can make cool creations that we copy from animals”. And they enjoyed the process as well. Demi: “We get to use plaster and get messy.” Mycah: “I like how it gets on my hands and hardens.”

Ms. Swift is almost as excited as the kids are about sharing their nifty ideas with the public. Don’t miss this opportunity to see what the next generation of artist-engineers has in mind. There could be a da Vinci in the bunch and you’ll be able to say “I saw his first show.”

“Artsy Biomimicry” will be on view in the Young Artists Gallery on the ground floor at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE through the end of February.