SPIKE™ Essential

Using Ideas from Nature

Daniel, Sofie, Leo and Maria learned that some light bulbs were made using ideas from how fireflies make light. Help them learn about other ideas we get from nature.

45-90 min.
Year 2-6


(NOTE: This lesson contains a Part A and a Part B. Both are important to access the full learning of the curriculum. If time is limited, review both parts to choose elements that meet your pupils’ needs.)

In this lesson, the key learning is about engineering design and biomimicry – ways people use ideas from nature to design solutions to human problems. Pupils will design and build one such solution.
The lesson provides some suggestions for inspiration. Encourage pupils to design and build their own ideas for solving a human problem of their choice. Reinforce that there is no single correct model.

  • Science Background - Learning from Nature: Biomimicry is the process of taking inspiration from other living things to design solutions to human problems.
    • Inspiration may come from understanding how organisms use their sense organs or other internal and external structures, including microscopic structures and processes.
    • In this lesson, pupils are limited to mimicking only the external structures of animals visible to the human eye.
    • Examples are provided with recommendation to share those related to light and sound (for Unit coherence). Choose the number and type of examples that meet your pupils’ learning needs.
    • To support pupils’ invention design, also share images/information about varied animal body parts for inspiration.
  • Build Prior Knowledge - Learning from Nature: Using your core science materials, share information, images and definitions.
    • Outside body parts of animals include horns, fur, gills, jointed legs, wings, beaks, eyes, feathers, scales, ears, stings, antennae, noses, eyelids, shells, quills and bright colourations or colour patterns.
    • Animals use their body parts to reproduce, grow and survive in their environment, such as to stay safe by blending into the surroundings, protecting their bodies or keeping predators away.
    • People use ideas from nature to create inventions. Examples for light and sound: 1) Modelling LED light bulbs on the shape of a firefly’s lantern, enabling them to produce more light with less energy; 2) Designing trains or parts of wind turbines to be quieter by modelling them after the beak of a kingfisher bird, reducing noise for nearby neighbourhoods; 3) Designing light-sensitive materials that change colour according to light levels, enabling machines and people to blend in with their background.
    • Familiar inventions and their inspiration: aeroplanes – bird wings; helicopters – dragonflies and hummingbirds; bike helmets – turtle shells; submarine shape – whales; artificial arms – elephant trunks (Animal Structures lesson)
    • Key vocabulary: body parts, survive, invention
  • Building and Programming Experience: Review the suggestions in the Unit Plan. For this lesson, you may also want to
    • Reinforce with all the tutorials in the SPIKE App Start menu.
    • Try one or more of the other lessons in the Science: See It! Hear It! Build It! unit to gain more building experience and become familiar with the Icon Blocks in the SPIKE App.
    • Clarify that programming is optional in this lesson.
  • Materials: Using the background above, choose and locate age-appropriate information, images or videos about 1) external animal parts and 2) biomimicry. For the latter, search biomimicry examples or biomimicry examples + light and sound. Determine how you will provide this scientific information to pupils – how many examples, where to share the information, how much choice to offer, and so on. Collect craft materials to support pupils in enhancing their models.

PART A (45 minutes)


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Introduce the story’s main character(s) and the first challenge: Daniel, Sofie, Leo and Maria learned that some light bulbs were made using ideas from how fireflies make light. Help them learn about other ideas we get from nature.

  • THINK – Share your collected biomimicry and animal parts examples and facilitate a brief discussion about the lesson topic(s).

    • Look at these pictures. How do the animals use these parts to survive? Can people do this too? (Answers will vary with the biomimicry pictures you found: No, people can’t: make their own light – firefly; fly or use beaks to move quietly – birds; dive deep under the water – whale; put their heads in a shell – turtle.)
    • What are some inventions that remind you of what animals can do? (Examples: aeroplane wings and helicopter blades to fly like a bird or insect; submarines to dive like a whale; helmets to protect our heads like a turtle shell; light bulbs that make light like a firefly; trains and wind turbines that move quietly like a bird)
    • Look at some more pictures. What animal body parts do they show? (Answers will vary with the pictures you found of animal parts: horns, fur, gills, jointed legs, wings, beaks, eyes, feathers, scales, ears, stings, antennae, noses, eyelids, shells, quills and bright colourations or colour patterns)
    • Think about the different animal body parts. What problem could they help you solve for people? (Elicit and post pupils’ ideas for shared use.)
  • Distribute a SPIKE Essential Set and a device to each group.


(Small Groups, 25 minutes)

  • As pupils work, clarify that they may design and build any solution to any human problem, using inspiration from any animal. The lesson Engage provides some suggestions. Reinforce that there is no single correct model and that programming is optional in this open-project lesson.

  • Have pupils:

    • Use inspiration from Engage to choose a human problem to solve and an animal body part that can help solve it.
    • Draw their idea, including the animal body part that inspired it and how the design will help people. (Have pupils name the animal part and circle, label or show how they will use it in their idea.)
    • Think about the best materials to use.
    • Begin to BUILD a model of their idea.
    • (Optional) Begin to PROGRAM their model to show how it works.
  • Halfway through work time, have pupils exchange ideas using a familiar classroom routine and then update their models with inspiration from sharing.

    • Test their model. Change it to work the way they intend.
  • Facilitate brainstorming about ways to combine craft materials and LEGO® elements in pupils’ design ideas. Encourage pupils to be imaginative in the problems they design for and the materials they choose.


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Gather pupils for sharing.

  • Have each group share and explain their progress design solution (models and sketches), including:

    • The problem they want to solve and why they want to solve it.
    • What animal body part they used for inspiration and how the animal uses it.
    • How they want their invention to work. (Pupils may verbally describe or visually show how their solutions will work but needn’t complete a functioning model.)
    • If the design worked or if they had to change it.
    • Design challenges they’d like help with.

If you wish to continue in Part B – Explain, have pupils keep their models intact or allow time for rebuilding.

PART B (45 minutes)


(Whole Class, 10 minutes)

  • Repeat the steps from Part A – Explain to have additional groups demonstrate and explain their learning.


(Whole Class, 30 minutes)

  • Have pupils:

    • (10 min) Continue to iterate and test their models until they work as expected.
    • (15 min) Demonstrate their invention and show how it solves a human problem(s) using an idea from an animal body part.
  • (5 min) Invite pupils to share knowledge, ideas or skills that:

    • Helped them complete the challenge.
    • They learned while building.
  • Have pupils clean up the sets and work areas.


(Whole Class, 5 minutes)

  • Ask guiding questions to elicit pupils’ thinking and their decisions while developing ideas, building and programming.

Observation Checklist

  • Review the learning objectives (Teacher Support box).
  • Use the checklist to observe pupils’ progress:
    • Their description and design identify some examples of how animals use external structures to survive (using provided science information).
    • Their design solves a human problem and contains a feature that mimics a specific animal body part. (Pupils may verbally describe or visually show how their solutions will work but needn’t complete a functioning model.)
    • They describe the materials they used and the features of their design.


Have each pupil choose the brick that they feel best represents their performance。

  • Blue brick: I think I can follow instructions to create a program.
  • Yellow brick: I can follow instructions to create a program.
  • Green brick: I can follow instructions to create a program, and I can help a friend do it too.

Peer Feedback

In their small groups, have your pupils discuss their experiences working together.
Encourage them to use statements like these:

  • I liked it when you…
  • I’d like to hear more about how you…


Simplify this lesson by:

  • Reducing the choices or providing a specific human problem and linking it to a specific animal’s external structure. Emphasise that pupils may build their design solution without using the Hub or programming.
    Increase the difficulty by:
  • Requiring pupils to PROGRAM their model to show how their invention works. If you wish, invite them to extend the Elaborate challenge by combining two or more structures to solve multiple problems.

Cross-curricular Learning

  • Have pupils develop their design drawing (from Explore) into a flyer or ad for their invention. Ask them to use arrows, circles and labels to explain how the invention works. They can also add a few words or a sentence telling people why they should use the invention.

If facilitated, this will extend beyond the 45-minute lesson.

Teacher Support

Pupils will:

  • Identify external body parts that animals use to grow and survive.
  • Design a solution to a human problem that mimics an external animal structure.
  • Describe the design, including its materials and how it works to solve a human problem.

(one for every two pupils)

  • LEGO® Education SPIKE Essential Set
  • Device with the LEGO Education SPIKE App installed
  • See Prepare - Materials.

Key Stage 1 Design and Technology

Pupils should be taught to generate, develop, model and communicate their ideas through talking, drawing, templates, mock-ups and, where appropriate, information and communication technology.

English cross-curricular learning

Year 2 Writing

  • Writing for different purposes

Pupil Material

Student Worksheet

Download, view or share as an online HTML page or a printable PDF.