Are you using biomimicry in D&T?

A guest post by Rebecca Mallinson

Fish Gill Design used to remove trapped air from water pipelines

Fish Gill Design used to remove trapped air from water pipelines

Biomimicry is the manufacturing of materials that imitate the phenomena of life’s natural processes. From 2014, biomimicry was introduced as a design methodology within the UK Design & Technology curriculum with the aspiration to align the subject more greatly with design outside education.

Burrs are the most widely known biomimic inspiration - responsible for velcro

Burrs are the most widely known biomimic inspiration – responsible for velcro

As an anthropology researcher at the crosshairs of Material & Visual Culture, Sustainability and Education, my interest lies in how this directive is technically interpreted and taught for Key Stage 3 students. How is such a complex subject understood, embraced and employed to create artefacts where ‘thought is made concrete in design’? In abstracting nature’s properties, are we teaching a re-assertion of our own power over it, or fostering an apotropaic (harm-averting) closeness with our increasingly vulnerable environment? Is there an immateriality – a spiritual rather than physical quality – to embedding biomimicry within a design curriculum?

Beijing National Aquatics Centre inspired by bubbles

Beijing National Aquatics Centre inspired by bubbles

I would love to be able to explore this for my masters dissertation at UCL but to do so, I need to find D&T teachers willing to be interviewed. This could be via email/Skype/phone or in person depending on your location.

Anyone is welcome to contribute their perspective whether they have:

  • Embraced this element of the curriculum and found innovative ways to articulate it?
  • Examples to share of how students have employed biomimicry within their artwork from the most mundane to the most spectacular?
  • Experienced creative, strange, fascinated or confused responses from students?
  • Felt skeptical about its inclusion within the curriculum entirely?

If you would like to know more and/or participate, please email Rebecca at before Friday 28th April.

Rebecca MallinsonRebecca Mallinson

Working with the Creative Directors at London College of Fashion, Rebecca has coordinated industry projects with Microsoft, United Nations, SHOWstudio and Cass Art alongside the design/organisation of catwalk and exhibitions. Her previous experience encompasses Research & Policy at the Crafts Council plus supporting researchers at Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Textile Futures Research Centre which each stimulated her interest in the potentials of design embracing natural technologies.

Alison Hardy: How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?

We know that there are all kinds of pressures on D&T departments at the moment, from staff recruitment, through adapting to changing curricula, to the ways that the EBacc is influencing SLTs’ views of the subject.

The informal feedback that I’m getting from teachers is generally not encouraging, but with islands of “I don’t really see what the problem is”. However, it would be really useful to get a less anecdotal picture of the situation. This would help with campaigns to support D&T in the curriculum, such as those from the D&TA and baccforthefuture, and should also inform efforts to help strengthen D&T departments

Alison Hardy

Alison Hardy

Fortunately, Alison Hardy at NTU is working on this. She says:

Can you spare a few moments to complete a questionnaire and maybe a follow up interview?
A group of 6 students at Nottingham Trent University who are studying Childhood Studies have been commissioned by me to undertake some research. I’ve asked them to find out ‘How have D&T departments responded to the new national curriculum?’.
Your responses will help us at NTU prepare our trainee D&T teacher by giving them up to date information on what is happening in schools.
The survey can be found here:
All of your responses will be kept confidential – they won’t even tell me who has replied!
Please help Alison – and the subject – if you are able.