By Kathleen Wong, UC Natural Reserve System
Modern summer camps keep kids learning amid the long break between school years. This August, the NRS’s James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve hosted a Biomimicry Camp to help local schoolchildren keep their science skills sharp.
Biomimicry is defined as imitating nature to address human challenges. Understanding how people emulate natural solutions requires observing how natural systems and structures work, then applying those principles to solve problems.
The camp was led by reserve intern Grace Martinez of the University of Missouri. “She is one of those natural born teachers who just knows how to be wildly entertaining to kids while also teaching them really complex ideas, such as photosynthesis,” says James Reserve director Jen Gee.
Martinez’s lessons played to the reserve strengths. Her students alternated time outdoors immersed in the forest with opportunities to write, draw, and handle the animals and bones in the reserve’s specimen collection. The activities invited campers to notice details of the world around them. Follow-on lessons taught them how characteristics ranging from hollow bones to color patterns help plants and animals survive.
The camp is part of an international effort by the Organization of Biological Field Stations to develop biomimicry lessons in order to spark interest in conservation and nature among children. Other participants in the program this year included field stations in Ohio, Mexico, Italy, and Barbados.
“It’s programs like this that I feel really get students into science and confident about tackling big problems that are new to them—just like us scientists,” Gee says.