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Videos for Observing Patterns in Nature

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Working with pattern blocks, tangrams, and 3D shapes are part of every elementary teacher’s geometry curriculum. But have you ever gone outdoors and observed nature’s design? The natural world is filled with geometric patterns. The sunflower, pine cone, and pineapple are examples where you’ll see the Fibonnaci sequence. Lightning, arteries, and river deltas are examples of fractals. These may be difficult terms and ideas for students but the integration of science and mathematics lends itself to studying patterns outdoors.

Next time you’re teaching patterns take the students on a pattern hunt outdoors. They’re apt to find spirals,  spheres, pyramids, and tessellations in surprising places. For more background information about nature’s design, watch these videos and start looking at the world with a new lens.

NOVA Hunting for Hidden Dimensions  (available on iTunes)
You may not know it, but fractals, like the air you breathe, are all around you. Their irregular, repeating shapes are found in cloud formations and tree limbs, in stalks of broccoli and craggy mountain ranges, even in the rhythm of the human heart. In this film, NOVA takes viewers on a fascinating quest with a group of maverick mathematicians determined to decipher the rules that govern fractal geometry.

Botany of Desire: Patterns in Nature
Based on Michael Pollan’s book Botany of Desire, this segment of video clips and lesson plans explores how people perceive beauty more deeply, by observing geometric shapes in plants and flowers; studying different kinds of patterns in nature, and using natural forms as an inspiration to create art.

Science Friday – Lighting Up Leaves
Leaves have an intricate web of veins that transport nutrients and water and provide structural support. But what determines the pattern of venation? Physicists Marcelo Magnasco and Eleni Katifori, of The Rockefeller University, investigated this question using sophisticated algorithms and a little glow-in-the-dark dye.


Cyberchase: Patterns in Nature
In this video segment from Cyberchase, Bianca wants to learn why her plants keep dying, so she transports them in a carriage to the New York Botanical Gardens. A helpful plant expert shows her some patterns in plants, including bilateral and rotational symmetry, before discovering the pattern that may be killing Bianca’s plants.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 5.18.33 PM
photo by Silvana Ferreira

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