Engage Students in STEM Learning with Biomimicry

Workshop to Be Held in Findhorn, Scotland

Prince Charles says of biomimicry:
“…the emerging discipline of biomimicry puts what zoologists and biologists know about natural systems together with the problems engineers and architects are trying to solve, in order to produce technology that mimics how Nature operates.”

Learn about biomimicry, and how to teach it, while exploring five habitats in coastal northeast Scotland. Join Biomimicry 3.8 Institute for a weeklong Biomimicry Educator Training Workshop, August 25–31, 2012, hosted at Findhorn College, the educational arm of the famous Findhorn Ecovillage.

Biomimicry is a design discipline, a branch of science, a problem-solving method, a sustainability ethos, a movement, a stance toward nature, and a new way of viewing and valuing biodiversity. At its most practical, biomimicry is a way of seeking sustainable solutions by borrowing life’s blueprints, chemical recipes, and ecosystem strategies.  At its most transformative, it brings us into right relation with the rest of the natural world, as students learning to be a welcome species on this planet.

Biomimicry’s sensible, eco-friendly approach to design has tremendous appeal for both educators and students. Designed to meet the interests and needs of k-12, university, and informal educators, the Biomimicry Educator Training Workshop offers instruction in the fundamentals of biomimicry, an introduction to Life’s Principles, and communication strategies for sharing biomimicry with students of any age. Participants will learn from local plants, animals, and ecosystems while exploring tidal bays, rivers, forests, and heather dunelands on the fringe of the Scottish highlands. They will return home with a plan for incorporating biomimicry education into their own curricula and programs as well as a toolkit of supporting resources. Register today for this innovative and inspiring program at biomimicry.net/findhorn

The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute focuses on supporting educators and encouraging them, and their students, to work collaboratively and consciously to bring innovative and sustainable designs to fruition using biomimicry principles.

Ali Solomon, Biomimicry 3.8 Institute

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Campaigning For Environmental Education

 

The ingredients of the curriculum – what goes in and what does not – are being hotly debated at the moment regarding Environmental Education. NAEE is part of this debate, but we need to ensure our advice is ready to roll out, when the Curriculum Reviews are complete.

Here are my thoughts on this debate, I hope it stimulates thought and discussion, and get in touch if you have any comments for us about it.

  • What do we mean by ‘environmental education’?
  • What should ‘environmental education’ look like?
  • How is it similar/different from pure science/geography?
  • How do teachers include it in an already-busy timetable?

We aim to produce a series of key ideas and transform these into short pieces, which will then become part of a NAEE Environmental Education Paper policy with exemplars.

…………………..

NAEE is a key player in promoting Environmental Education (EE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to be part of/a major theme within school curriculum.

As executive member and former EE advisor Sue Fenoughty points out:

“This definitely seems to be the moment when we must act, as in this article from the Guardian, it says there are going to be major changes to science studies under the reforms for the national curriculum with the Science curriculum expected to ’emphasise using the natural habitat around schools – learning biology by studying the growth and development of trees, for example’ – so, in other words, much more emphasis on using the local environment. (environmental education). The article mention that the science curriculum in Japan has at its core the love of nature … and, as we know, you can’t develop a love of nature unless you’ve been out in a natural environment.”

The new programmes of study are being published for consultation this week, and are to be introduced in schools in September 2014, so not far away.

Yes, it’s all ‘up in the air’ and no-one knows where it will end up. And yes, it’s confusing and frustrating in the meantime. But also, yes, NAEE will have some key concrete ideas to present – intelligent responses and exemplars to the questions when they come along.

Henricus Peters, NAEE CoChair

 

Bringing Education to the Jungle

In the 1980s a handful of Bolivian street children were taken on a field trip into the Amazon Basin.  These children were blown away by what they saw – the trees, the flowers, the animals – but also by devastation from farming and illegal logging.  When they saw a spider monkey, malnourished and trapped in a cage, the children rescued the monkey.  Then they began to campaign; eventually they raised enough money to open the first sanctuary for wild animals in Bolivia.  They called it Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi, which means sun, moon and stars in Quechua, Aymara and Chiriguano Guarani, symbolising hope for unification between Bolivia’s environment and its people.  Now CIWY runs three refuges in different parts of Bolivia, rescuing exotic animals from captivity, rehabilitating and releasing where possible – where not, offering damaged creatures dignity and respect in environments as wild as possible.

I started working with CIWY in 2007 and, like countless other international volunteers, my experience (including the totally unexpected relationship I formed with a female puma) changed my life.  But CIWY not only takes in animals and raises awareness with their volunteers; they also help underprivileged young Bolivians by providing them with safe homes, educations, the chance to learn about their environment and, ultimately, the chance to make a difference on their own.  CIWY take their work out into local communities, and they are just beginning to bring the jungle into English speaking classrooms.  We have created an educational resource pack that tells the story of CIWY – how it is possible for paws, claws, boots, roots, feathers and tails to live together, in harmony.  If you are interested, please visit www.ciwy.org

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Laura Coleman, CIWY

Empty Classroom Day – Taking Learning Outdoors!

Friday 6th July 2012 marks the Empty Classroom Day, a day where pupils will head outside to learn, and we would like you to join us! This exciting initiative seeks to uniquely tackle recent concerns, from both the National Trust and Natural England, that children are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ and that there is an ‘extinction of experience’ when engaging with the natural environment.

The Empty Classroom Day is happening right across the UK, but was created by a collection of organisations who met at the London Sustainable Schools Forum (LSSF), all supporting learning outside the classroom, school grounds and growing. The day was developed to help schools benefit from outdoor learning and share their best practice with other schools.

Schools are signing up to support outdoor learning and to show that one class will be learning outside for one lesson on Friday 6th July. Pupils will be:

  • Doing their maths lesson in the playground
  • Making art on city farms
  • Doing bug hunts at nature reserves
  • Running races for school sports days
  • Bird watching in their playgrounds
  • Writing stories in the local park
  • Following maps in Zoos
  • Weeding in the school vegetable patch.

What are the benefits?

Learning outside the classroom can be fun, memorable and healthy. Everyone benefits from learning outside:

  • Young people will get the chance to learn in new, more relevant and exciting ways – in particular these can benefit those who find classroom learning difficult
  • Teachers will be able to broaden and deepen their teaching skills and subject knowledge while working with more motivated pupils
  • The school can use these new approaches to raise achievement
  • The wider community can benefit through involvement in, for example, developing school gardens of all kinds, leading to a wider understanding of issues such as healthy eating, sustainability and caring for the environment.

How does my school join?

Schools can sign up to the event by following this link:

http://projectdirt.com/group/the-empty-classroom/page/signup

For those schools that have signed up there are special offers for visits, tours, treasure hunts and lots of activity packs with ideas for what your class can do in your school playground.

We hope you and your school can join us on this fantastic initiative and that we can take learning outdoors together!

– By Sarah Simmons, NAEE Member

‘Only biofuels will cut plane emissions’ –

Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissi...

Per capita anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by country for the year 2000 including land-use change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We need something that can deliver emission reductions from existing fleets of planes – and the solution already exists. Ben Caldicott gives his views in The Guardian 

As a small, maritime trading nation Britain has always been some distance from big international markets. Our ability to visit far-off places and people, and their access to us, has always been at the heart of our ability to punch above our weight in the world, whether that’s commercially, culturally or diplomatically.

In the past we were dependent on ships, now we are reliant on commercial airlines, as well as the Channel Tunnel and secure data networks. This infrastructure is critical for our future, particularly as we look to major economies like India, China and Brazil for export opportunities. But it is also vital for sustaining our outward facing society and culture; one that’s confident engaging with the world and welcoming of its diversity.

Rail and video-conferencing will help, but air travel will remain absolutely essential and more people are going to fly, especially to and from a networked, diverse, outward-facing island nation like our own.

We should embrace this, but we must also recognise that flying more will also have negative consequences, in particular greenhouse gas emissions. The positive progress on including aviation in Europe’s carbon trading scheme this week is welcome, but neither that nor more efficient aircraft will deal with the industry’s climate problem. As I will argue, only biofuels can do that. Aviation currently accounts for a relatively small proportion of global carbon emissions: 6% of UK, 4% of European Union and 2% of world. This will change fast though, with global aviation expected to grow at 5% a year for at least the next 15 years. If so, by 2050 aviation emissions will account for up to 20% of global emissions, making tackling global warming significantly harder.

Though new airport capacity in the UK is essential, plans for it must convincingly address this important pollution challenge.

Including aviation in the Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme is a step in the right direction, but at current carbon prices it will not spur the innovations needed to cut pollution. Some say the aviation sector has a good track record of improving the fuel efficiency of new aircraft, achieving an average annual improvement of about 1.5%. But these emissions savings will be completely overwhelmed by growing global demand for aviation.

So we desperately need something that can deliver a step-change in emission reductions from existing fleets, particularly as planes built today will be in service for many years to come. The only option is to replace existing jet fuel (kerosene) with an alternative that can deliver deep emission reductions and be used to current aircraft. Fortunately, this technology exists: sustainable bio jet fuels. Made from advanced feedstocks and able to provide significant life-cycle emission reductions and meet other stringent sustainability standards, these fuels can be produced today and have already received certification for use in commercial jet aircraft. They can also be produced now at costs not far above the high and volatile price of jet fuel, with Bloomberg predicting that they could potentially reach price parity with kerosene in 2016.

There is an opportunity for the UK to align its need to develop new airport capacity with the development of sustainable bio jet fuels at scale. We should work to ensure that any new airport provide airlines with the best biofuels available.

Airport operators should have to provide airlines with a blend of jet fuelthat has a significant and rising proportion of sustainable bio jet fuel. This would significantly reduce emissions from flights. The mandate should start at an achievable level, say where the blend would have to be 15% less polluting than jet fuel today based on the strictest sustainability standards. It could then ratchet up to reach a point where the blend was 60% less polluting within a reasonable time-frame.

Airlines would benefit from a genuine and cost-effective emission reduction strategy, which might even attract environmentally conscious flyers. Not many hubs would need to follow the UK before the majority of international flights used sustainable bio jet fuel blends, perhaps only New York, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore need change, in addition to London.

An ambitious blending mandate would send exactly the signal required to accelerate the development of sustainable bio jet fuels. Airport operators would be required to demonstrate they had a plan to meet the incoming mandate and would sign supply contracts with developers, which would spur innovation and investment. The UK government could also ensure that our leading biotech, aviation and university sectors work in unison to create solutions, through targeted research programmes and tax relief for collaborative work.

The luddite wing of the environmental movement will think such proposals sacrilegious – their only solution is to stop flying. But the reality is that there will be and should be more international travel, particularly to and from the UK. The challenge is to make this as least polluting as is possible, while also minimising local airport impacts. By aligning the debate about airport capacity sensibly with environmental objectives, we can make a significant dent in aviation emissions globally as well as guarantee sufficient airport capacity to keep UK plc open for both business and pleasure.

 

• Ben Caldecott is head of policy at Climate Change Capital and co-author of ‘Green Skies Thinking: Promoting the development and commercialisation of sustainable bio-jet fuels

Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/may/16/only-biofuels-will-cut-plane-emissions

 

BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN : NEW OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD FROM ‘NAEE’

Many Birmingham school children are being denied the opportunity to experience learning about their
environment due to school funding cuts. Schools report finding it increasingly difficult to find money within their budgets to take classes out to Environmental Education Centres where charges have risen recently due to cuts from local authority funding.

The National Association for Environmental Education (NAEE) is now stepping in to help schools by providing bursaries to enable these key activities to continue within the city.

A local Birmingham family, with a long history of supporting education in the area, is concerned that city children should not be deprived of the opportunity to experience a more natural environment away from the city streets. They have awarded NAEE funding from the Kenrick Trust to enable pupils from nine schools annually to visit Environmental Education Centres, covering all costs involved. These visits will give our young citizens the opportunity to learn and understand about the natural world,
leading to fostering more responsible and caring attitudes.
The Hugh Kenrick Days was launched on Monday 14th May.
Lozells Primary School and St. Paul’s School, Balsall Heath, are amongst the first to benefit from this much needed project. Lozells Primary will be visiting Bell Heath Education Centre, run
by Birmingham City Council.

Earth Hour Reflections

I celebrated Earth Hour for the first time at the RIBI assembly dinner on 31st March: the lights were switched off and hundreds of candles illuminated the area. This was my first experience to a beautifully simple idea that has become a massive global phenomenon, which has successfully united an extraordinary number of people across the globe. This simple symbiotic act carries a huge environmental message.

Hundreds of millions take time to switch off their lights for an hour on the last Saturday in March as they are driven by the thought of positive action to help tackle climate change and protect the natural world from the impacts of our ever consuming lifestyles. This is fantastic and inspiring and NAEE encourages people to go beyond just the hour and extend energy saving that can make such a difference into their daily lives.

The way we live has impacts that we can not always determine or haven’t yet experienced: these can range from weather changes such as droughts and flooding to food shortages, loss of species and deforestation. So, Earth Hour is not just about saving electricity, it is much greater than that. It is about realising that the actions we take; to the energy we use; the food we eat and the water we drink – all have an effect on our planet.

We all depend on our amazing world and need to care and look after it, not just for an hour, but for every single day of the year.

The analysis after tracking the total electricity demand during the day and comparing it with the corresponding profile of previous Saturdays in the UK showed that there was indeed a significant reduction in the mid evening peak when people often switch lights on. Overall, this translated to a massive saving of around 2,850 tonnes of CO2, an impressive figure

WWF reported that hundreds of millions of people in a record 150 countries and 6,434 towns and cities across the world took part to show they care about our brilliant planet. In the UK, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Clifton Suspension Bridge, HMS Victory, Edinburgh Castle, Parliament Building in Northern Ireland and the Welsh Assembly were just a few of the landmarks that took part.

Communities across the country also ran local events and thousands took part making this year’s Earth Hour the biggest yet, with an estimated 20,000 visitors per minute on its youtube channel and by the time the switch off had reached South Asia, Earth Hour was trending on twitter.

Gabrielle Back, CoChair, NAEE.

Minibeast art competition with Nature Detectives

Get inspired by brilliant bugs and

create a marvellous mini-beast masterpiece!

Great prizes up for grabs in Nature Detectives‘ national
art competition for children, schools and
groups in the UK.

Prizes

 

trophiesBrilliant minibeast-themed goodies up
for grabs.

Butterfly houses, bug magnifiers, nature
detectives CLUB membership and I-Spy
in the Countryside
 books.

 

How to enter

  • Print a minibeast colouring outline
  • Transform it with colour, pattern and texture
  • Print an entry ticket and fill in your details
  • Post both bits to us by 29th August 2012
    (one entry per class/group)

Full details – click here http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/art/

Posted by Henricus Peters, Managing editor