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Arts in Academics is a journal where I post ideas about creative thinking in relationship to teaching and learning. 


The True Story of Nature Inspired Design Innovation

The True Story of Nature Inspired Design Innovation – That is the title of my upcoming presentation at the Black Mountain College International Conference 2012, September, 28-30, 2012, Black Mountain College, Asheville, NC. 

Thematic Focus: Looking Forward at Buckminster Fuller's Legacy

Abstract: Nature has an impressive track record of solving problems. She uses only the resources necessary to get the job done in an elegant, brilliant, and collaborative way. What with her being so capable and beautiful how could we humans help but take notice? Arguably, we would do well to learn from both her failures and successes, to study her design principles, and to seek solutions to problems with respect to her example, especially in the case of developing innovations.

It is true that there is a long history of human’s being in awe of Nature. She inspires design. We can see recent evidence of this in an array of technological and structural innovations. For example, Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridgearchitectural structures that resemble avian engineered nests, and deployable structures that fold into compact shapes and autonomously unfold/expand into a different shape. In what could have revolutionary impact on the treatment of cancerous tumors, developers are now creating smart particles, self-assembling polyhedron nanostructures made from biodegradable polymers, those that contain and deliver drugs to precise locations inside the body. With stunning examples such as these, it is compelling to gain insight into the connection between Nature and human invention.

In an inspection spanning multiple eras and disciplines, we can see even more evidence of our fascination and reverence for nature. For example, consider the work of figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, William Morris, Buckminster Fuller, Peter Jon Pearce, Ross Lovegrove, Oren Lyons, Eva Zeisel, Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg, Janine Benyus, Richard Louv, and many more.

How does the act of looking to nature enable artist’s, designer’s, and engineer’s process of discovery? What modes of inquiry facilitate creative learning? What is the motivation and benefit of looking to nature for design inspiration?

This presentation will address these questions, using art and design history as the lens for investigation, demonstrating how humans are inspired by nature’s design innovation, learning from nature’s problem solving method, and applying the lessons through research, observation, making, testing, and problem-solving –– critical investigations involved in the process of developing and creating art, products, furniture, architecture, and systems applications. The presentation will conclude with audience discussion and reflections.

Date and Time: Saturday, September 29, 12:00  


Arts Matter: Consider Supporting H.Res. 319

There is an important federal resolution currently up for consideration. H.Res. 319: Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that adding art and design into Federal programs that target the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields encourages innovation and economic growth in the United States. Sponsor: Rep. Jim Langevin [D, RI-2]. Status: This resolution was assigned to a congressional committee on June 21, 2011, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. Learn more about fostering inovation through STEAM, visit stemto What follows is my letter in support of H.Res. 319, which I submitted via POPVOX.

Dear Congressperson:

I support H.Res. 319 because art and design can make a critical contribution to our country’s success. Federal programs that support the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) fields are missing a key component of the equation, Art. Consider the skill set that resides in the field, the type of intelligence that a creative person posses. I understand artists and designers actively demonstrate and communicate higher order thinking skills, involving a critical combination of analysis, synthesis, abstraction, evaluation, and meaning-making (Revised Bloom's Taxonomy). Artists and designers are flexibly minded solution seeking problem-solvers, who are collaborative, strategic, and intelligent. We are innovators and our country could more of us actively participating in research, development, business, planning, and education. Embracing and fueling this type of creativity at all levels in the US, from childhood education, academic research, to business development, will help our country engage in innovation, with expectant outcomes that will fuel our economy. Please consider the potential of Art to make a difference. Consider transforming S.T.E.M. into S.T.E.A.M..


Arts in Academics

As a part of an afterschool enrichment program for urban youth, I developed and delivered a seventeen week curriculum focusing on geodesics. Students observed patterns and structures found in nature, researched mathematical forms, studied nature-inspired architecture, and built and tested a variety of geodesic models. The experience culminated with the group constructing a geodesic dome.

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