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STEM-themed Ideas to Spark Imagination and Explore Tech

Brienna Rossiter, Focus Readers editor

There’s nothing quite like watching the spark in students’ eyes as they make a connection between a subject they’re studying and an idea of their own. Suddenly, science transforms from a list of facts to the surprise and delight of discovering things for themselves. These surprising connections often drive technology and innovation. So, to help students practice this kind of thinking, we created the Technology Inspired by Nature series.

Each book in this set highlights several inventions based on plants and animals—patterns scientists observed in the natural world and adapted to solve human problems. It also includes an Inspire Me! feature, which zeroes in on a specific invention, explaining the idea behind it and giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the way it works.

All Focus Readers titles come with free lesson plans, available on this site. Our lesson plan for Transportation Technology Inspired by Nature focuses on the Inspire Me! feature, guiding students through studying how bird feathers helped scientists design better airplane wings. Then, students are invited think like scientists, writing their own description of an animal’s feature and a problem it could help solve. The lesson plan for Robots Inspired by Nature takes it one step further. After examining a few examples of robots based on ocean animals, students get to design animal-inspired robots of their own.

Most lesson plans are designed for classroom use, but all our activities can easily be adapted to fit a variety of formats. For example, students could use library computers to research the way a particular ocean animal moves and get more details for their robot designs. Or, a makerspace could provide students with supplies to build models of their inventions.

For even more lesson plans to get students thinking about science and design, check out our Animal Engineers series. These books for slightly younger readers help get kids thinking like engineers—because at every age level, the best kind of learning happens when students are empowered to investigate and explore.

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