Oct 15

Have you ever marveled at the different sizes and shapes of bird beaks or wondered just how an octopus suction pad really works? Each of these specialized adaptations in wildlife embodies a principle in engineering. Examples of engineering in nature can be found all around us whether it’s the structure of a seed pod that allows it to fly or float great distances, or the way that light filters through the leaves of a tree on a sunny day.

We are excited to announce a new learning project available to educators this fall in collaboration with Iridescent, a science education nonprofit that links science professionals with under privileged youth through its innovative learning platform, the Curiosity Machine. In this three week program called the Engineering in Nature Challenge, students ages 11-14 can learn up to five different engineering concepts all from the natural world and test their skills through invention:



Learn how a bird beak is a simple machine.





Discover flight and gliding adaptations of seed pods.




Explore reflection and incidence angles through light reflection in trees.




Test aerodynamics knowledge and skills by building a gliding bird.




Engineer an octopus suction pad while discovering air pressure, vacuum and suction forces.


Teachers can choose to do any combination of activities from the list above and each activity features films from the ARKive collection that demonstrate the engineering concepts in action.

There are two aspects to this project that make it unique from any other learning experience. First, teachers will be offered continuous support from ARKive and Iridescent team members through weekly Google Hangouts including kick-off and culmination hangouts. The team will be available to introduce you to Iridescent and the Curiosity Machine platform, troubleshoot any questions from the classroom,  and recommend additional wildlife imagery from ARKive. Second, each student will be paired up with a scientist working in the field that will offer advice and helpful feedback on the student’s work and these aren’t just any scientists! The mentors for the Engineering in Nature Challenge are practicing science at distinguished institutions such as Harvard, Stanford and more.

Iridescent pic

Child participating in an Engineering in Nature Challenge by building a gliding bird

The Engineering in Nature Challenge is a learning experience unlike any other inspiring students to explore engineering principles while developing a greater connection to nature all with the one-on-one support of exceptional real world scientists.

If you are interested in learning more about the Engineering in Nature Challenge, sign up for a sneak peek by clicking the link below.

Sneak Peek Sign Up!

You will be one of the first educators to receive the Engineering in Nature Challenge info before it goes live on the ARKive site on October 24. We look forward to sharing this learning experience with you!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education & Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

  • Susan Sherman (October 21st, 2013 at 3:33 pm):

    7th/8th grade science teacher to Chinese Students in San Francisco, CA — would love to participate in your program

  • Adriana Sarapochillo (October 21st, 2013 at 6:21 pm):

    I would like to include this in my science 4th grade class

  • Liana (October 23rd, 2013 at 1:29 pm):

    Hi Adriana, Great to hear you want to join in! Please sign up by clicking on the “Sneak Peek Sign Up!” hyperlink above and we’ll get you all set up for the challenge. You can also have a look at the challenge materials on ARKive Education: http://www.arkive.org/education/teaching-resources-11-14#

  • liana.vitali (October 24th, 2013 at 1:11 pm):

    Hi Susan, I just checked our enrollment form and see that you have signed up successfully. Can’t wait to “see” you at the Google Hangouts and work with your students to bring engineering in nature to your classroom!