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Create an Invention Based on an Animal

Students will select an animal, choose one of its physical or behavioral traits and conduct research to learn more about it. Then they will brainstorm ideas about how to improve or design a product that incorporates that trait and create a diagram of their product.

PROCESS:

  1. Remind students that in the article they just read, researchers studied frog spit and tongues to learn how these parts help frogs catch bugs. They hope to use what they learn to create new inventions or improve things people already use.
  2. Point out that this is not unique. Researchers have used what they've learned about animal parts and behaviors to create everything from high-speed bullet trains - shaped after a bird's beak - to energy efficient office buildings - styled after African termite mounds.
  3. Instruct students to select an animal and make a list of its notable parts and behaviors. Have them pick one part or behavior from their list and conduct research to learn more about it. Encourage them to get into as much detail as they can.
  4. Have students brainstorm ideas about how they could use the characteristics of that part or behavior to create a new invention or improve something that already exists. Give students time to create a detailed sketch or diagram of a product they could make.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their diagrams with the class. Challenge them to explain how they incorporated the characteristics of a specific animal part or behavior into their new product.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
As a class, select one animal to study. Make a list of that animal's parts and behaviors. Conduct research to learn more. Then have students brainstorm ideas about how specific parts or behaviors could be used to create or improve a product. Encourage students to pick what they think is the best idea from the list. Give each student a piece of plain white paper and access to drawing supplies. Encourage each student to draw a picture of his or her vision.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct group members to select one animal and make a list of its unique parts and behaviors. Have them pick one item from the list and conduct research to learn more about it. Encourage groups to brainstorm ideas about how the trait they chose could be used to create or improve a product. Give them time to create a detailed sketch of their product.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to select one animal and make a list of its unique parts and behaviors. Have them pick one item from the list and conduct research to learn more about it. Encourage partners to brainstorm ideas about how the trait they chose could be used to create or improve a product. Give them time to create a detailed sketch. Challenge them to write a brief summary analyzing the relationship between their product and the animal it is based upon.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the activity with a partner. Instruct pairs to select one animal, identify one of its traits or behaviors, and conduct research to learn as many details about that trait or behavior as possible. Give them time to brainstorm ideas and select a trait or behavior that could be used to create or improve a product. Challenge partners to create a patent-worthy diagram of their product and to write a scientific summary explaining how their product is based on the traits of an animal part or behavior.