SMALL MATTERS ~ Use SEMs to Solve Engineering Problems

Heather Kinser
Grade Levels
1st - 3rd
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
3 pages
Heather Kinser


This book-study worksheet asks students to think about five engineering problems and consider which nano-scale animal adaptations might help solve them. Students will prepare for the worksheet by reading the picture book SMALL MATTERS: The Hidden Power of the Unseen, by Heather Ferranti Kinser (Millbrook Press, ages 4-9). This activity touches upon topics such as biomimicry, materials science, materials engineering, biology, animal adaptations, and microscopy (specifically, scanning electron microscopes).

Total Pages
3 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
30 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing. Examples of cause and effect relationships could be plants that have larger thorns than other plants may be less likely to be eaten by predators; and, animals that have better camouflage coloration than other animals may be more likely to survive and therefore more likely to leave offspring.


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