Orange jellyfish swimming



Associated Shape of Life Content

Echinoderms and Human Interaction

Sea cucumbers are a tasty delicacy in some cuisines; informally named as “bêche-de-mer,” or “gamat,” they have long been used for food and folk medicine in the communities of Asia and Middle East. And some Pacific Islanders use the toxin in some species as a poison to help them catch fish. They also use the sticky parts of some species to help stem the flow of blood if someone is wounded. 

Nature’s Innovations

Antoni Gaudi, the famous Spanish architect, found his inspirations from nature. From trees to light to whale bones, Gaudi used solutions from nature for structural support or decoration. He is not unique in using natural engineering to solve problems in our daily lives. In this lesson, we will investigate how, through the process of evolution, animals have solved their engineering problems and how people have mimicked those natural solutions.

World’s Most Awesome Invertebrate

After note taking during the phyla episodes of the, student pairs will randomly pick an invertebrate from the hat. After doing more in-depth research on their chosen invertebrate, student pairs will design and create a flyer that will promote the invertebrate’s special abilities. Furthermore, the students will find at least one video clip of their invertebrate from the website to present to the class as evidence of their claims. Finally the student pair will argue why their invertebrate should be crowned the “World’s Most Awesome Invertebrate.”


Nature has inspired inventions since the first humans tried to make things. Biomimicry is the practice of looking to nature to help solve design problems. Today scientists and engineers are finding inspiration from animals and plants that may surprise you.

Activity: Invertebrate Critter Cards

In this activity students explore how animals are classified. For centuries taxonomists have been classifying the diversity of animal life based on observations and measurements of animals’ body plans. And now, with DNA sequencing, scientists have for the most part confirmed the work of earlier taxonomists. Students will learn the characteristics that define five of the major invertebrate phyla by watching videos, reading and sorting animal cards. The phyla are: Cnidarians, Annelids, Arthropods, Molluscs, and Echinoderms.

Virtual Urchin: A Cool Classroom Resource

It’s very easy to see sea urchin fertilization, cell division and embryonic development under a microscope. Realizing that the animals could be a great teaching tool in the classroom, the sea urchin development lab at Stanford’s University’s Hopkins Marine Station, led by Dr. Dave Epel, created the “Virtual Urchin” website. The goal of this project is to provide inquiry based lessons, available on a freely-accessible, open access website.