BioMachine Design Challenge


The BioMachine Design Challenge is closed for 2021. The activities and resources can be used in the classroom throughout the year. Enjoy and stay tuned for the spring of 2022 when the new challenge opens again.

The BioMachine Design Challenge encourages students to design their future, now. It is more urgent than ever for our youth to be informed and inspired to respond to the complex challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the recent rise of pandemic diseases.  Through the BioMachine Design Challenge we provide diverse and creative tools for teachers to engage youth in sci-art interventions at the intersection of arts-humanities & science, bioethics & human ecology, nature/ecophilosophy & technology. Students learn from interdisciplinary and intercultural experts who share their knowledge to inspire youth to connect to and design with nature, and imagine a better world.



The BioMachine Design Challenge builds curriculum tools and resources around the Pollinator Concentrator, created in partnership with the Taos Land Trust and BioSTEAM artist, Ana MacArthur. The site-specific interspecies installation, located at Rio Fernando Park in Taos, New Mexico, reflects on the impact of local and global pollinator decline and biodiversity loss. The focus is on how pollinator decline impacts local culture, food security and the global health of the planet. The installation also integrates a bat detector on the land which tracks and visualizes the movement of bats living at the park. Approximately 20 bat species have been identified by bat biologist, Mark Balistreri.

The goal is to use the art installation as the springboard to delve into the ecological topic through sci-art explorations. We bring together experts from diverse fields of study and cultural knowledge to provide their unique perspectives on the biodiversity topics to inspire and inform student designs. The project is designed to the Next Generation Science Standards, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals where are in themselves a valuable teaching tool with the mission of working on meaningful solutions toward building a sustainable future for all. The chart below viusalizes the methodology behind the curriculum design.

Teachers Guide

The Teachers Guide contains all the files below in one document for easy access designed for teachers to develop their own curriculum around Biodiversity, Art and Science in conjunction with the BioSTEAM Curriculum Tool online.

Resource Guide

This quick guide highlights some of the resources used to develop the BioSTEAM curriculum tools. Explore these live linked resources and more on the BioSTEAM project pages and in the wiki located in the Design Tool.

Design Challenge

The BioMachine Design Challenge includes and overview on this activity and guidelines such as examples, a rubric.  Students design a pollinator-inspired BIO-MACHINE that helps us live in balance with nature.


The Pollinator Snapshot is intended to make connections between the pollinator theme with biomimetics or nature inspired design. Snapshots focus on pollinator species featured in Pollinator Concentrator such as bees, butterflies, and bats.

Biodiversity Topics

Provides a detailed description of the three main biodiversity topics for this project to inform the sci-art experiments and designs. Students learn how art, science, technology and culture are inspired by nature.

Nature Experiments

Includes three hands-on Nature Inspired Experiments that explore the NGSS crosscutting concepts of patterns, structure and function. Visualizing the invisible, Drawing pollinators, and analyzing bat data.

How it Works

Use this STEMarts Curriculum Tool to build a classroom project around the BioMachine Design Challenge either virtually from home or in the classroom. Below is a description for each of the main components of the program.

The About section provides all the related resources for the Pollinator Concentrator project including the Biodiversity Topics Map,  BioSTEAM Teacher WIKI, Pollinator Concentrator Map, and Teacher Resources with background research, articles and definitions for the content introduced.

The BioSTEAM Design Tool is the heart of the BioSTEAM project and is designed for the student to access directly. It takes them through the design stages of the Pollinator Concentrator project: Explore, Research, Experiment, Connect, Design...and share! They watch a virtual tour of the art installation, get to know the artist through the Artist Page, and watch the video INTERviews to see interdisciplinary and intercultural perspectives on the topic of biodiversity and pollinator decline.

The BioSTEAM-Wiki is  part of the BioSTEAM Design Tool. This is where students will find links to articles, images, video, and tutorials that we have curated from the web around the broad topic of Biodiversity and Human Impact, and for the specific goal of inspiring and informing your final nature-inspired design for the Pollinator Concentrator project. The students navigates the BioSTEAM Wiki by entering keywords into the search field or clicking through the word cloud. Word clouds visualize the amount of information available on a topic - the bigger the word in the cloud, the more links to explore. They can also type in the key word of the design stage they are working on: Explore, Research, Experiment, Connect or Design. This will give them specific resources that they will need for that stage of the design process. The BioSTEAM-Wiki is just a starting point. Students should be encouraged to do their own research. This is an opportunity to develop media and science literacy skills such as fact checking and listing sources. Students will have to list their sources with the final submitted designs.

The Artist Page contains all the information about the artist's installation, Pollinator Concentrator and her process. Students learn about the topic of biodiversity and pollinators through the artist lens and it becomes a source of inspiration for their own designs.

Citizen Science, also known as crowd-sourced science, is when members of the general public help with the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world, to meaningfully contribute to scientific research as well as to increase the public's understanding of science. The Citizen Science section contains a collection of citizen science projects that encourage students to go outside and observe pollinators at the Rio Fernando Park, in their backyard or community, while helping to build the scientific database on biodiversity.

The INTERviews page brings together a diverse group of voices from inter-disciplinary fields and inter-cultural experiences through a series of INTERviews. Students watch the videos from home or in the classroom to experience unique perspectives around the topic of biodiversity loss and pollinator decline.

The Standards page provides details on how the BioSTEAM projects are designed to multiple standards. In addition to the Next Generation Science Standards, the biodiversity/pollinator loss topic addresses several of the 17 Goals adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG goals are a great teaching resource for connecting students to local-global projects around the world.

The Partners page lists organizations that share our mission to inspire youth to connect to and design with nature to imagine a better world. They collaborate with us and if they offer youth programs or educational opportunities they are listed on this page.

Biodiversity Teacher Resources

The following articles, essays and research papers are resources to help you build content for your lesson plan around the BioMachine Design Challenge project. They cover topics on biodiversity, pollinator and species decline, as well as their connections to climate change and the rise of pandemic diseases. Also included are a collection of related essays from UNESCO on Humanistic Futures of Learning. For more on biodiversity topics related to this unit visit the Design Tool and scroll down to see the Topics Map.

UNESCO Biodiversity Learning Kit Volume 1

UNESCO's Biodiversity learning kits are concrete tools designed to support biodiversity-related education, communication and public awareness. The full 191 page book can be downloaded.

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UNESCO Biodiversity Learning Kit Volume 2 Activities

Developed jointly by UNESCO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the occasion of the UN Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020), this kit responds to the need to develop concrete tools, in support of biodiversity communication, education and public awareness. The 80-page book of hands on activities can be downloaded.

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UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity: connecting people and nature for an inspiring future

This publication highlights some of UNESCO’s biodiversity-related actions and solutions, based on the Organization’s unique mandate and its diverse normative instruments, networks, programmes and partners . These actions have reduced biodiversity loss and improved the lives of many people around the planet .

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Terralingua: Biocultural Diversity Toolkit

Edited by Luisa Maffi and Ortixia Dilts,Terralingua’s Biocultural Diversity Toolkit is a free publication that introduces the theory and practice of biocultural diversity and some of the relevant tools and approaches.

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UNESCO: Humanistic Futures of Learning

Perspectives from UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks. This collection presents diverse views on the aims and purposes of education, as well as on learning content and methods within increasingly complex learning systems. The humanistic approach to education and development is the common thread that weaves together the diversity of contributions into a rich tapestry on learning.

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UNESCO: Learning about Biodiversity – Multiple-Perspective Approaches

The Multiple-Perspective Tool is a valuable framework for teaching any sustainable development issue. The focus of this particular companion document is on applying multiple perspectives for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to biodiversity issues.

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BioSTEAM Teacher Wiki

We are living in a transformative century where new scientific discoveries and technologies are radically reframing they way we think and interact in every aspect of our lives with the potential to expand our worldview and sense of self. How can an expanded sense of self be explored through the merging of art and culture with science and technology? How can this exploration develop empathy and a deeper connection to our humanity and nature? Never before has it been so urgent for our youth to be prepared to solve local and global humanitarian and environmental challenges.  These challenges require out of the box creative thinking and unique transdisciplinary skills inherent in STEAM education.

So why is the path to creating integrated STEAM activities in our schools and classrooms so challenging and overwhelming? Why are we so resistant to learning new technologies? How can STEM/STEAM activities be more culturally responsive? How can "I" integrate science if I am not a scientist? How can "I" integrate art if I am not an artist? How do we create interdisciplinary projects within the constraints of the 20th century structured classroom? These are questions that we are continually addressing through the STEMarts Lab. The BioSTEAM Teacher Wiki below has links to articles, posts and research that explore these underlying questions and can provide insight and inspiration. We also include links with background information on science discoveries, fields of study or art genres referred to in the BioSTEAM projects that may be new to you. Select specific topics from the Word Cloud or select VIEW ALL in the Word Cloud to see all entries. The size of the word is proportional to the amount of links under that topic.


Space Messengers is made possible in part by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund for U.S. Alumni; an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Partners of the Americas. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts

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