Image6.gif (2975 bytes)THE GREAT WINGED ADVENTURE
Joanna VanAusdeln & Bianca Davidson
University of Moscow



ITV Series:  Bill Nye the Science Guy #206: Birds

This unit provides an opportunity for the students to learn more about birds. They will learn about the defining characteristics of birds, how a bird flies, how to build a bird's nest, and will conclude the unit with a closer look at one specific bird such as an owl. This unit allows for a teacher to integrate the fields of math, science, and reading together. Most importantly, this gives the students an opportunity to have fun while learning.  This unit has six segments with activities, use one or use them all.


  • 15 or more different kinds of feathers
  • 8x10 picture of a bald eagle
  • 8x10 picture of a bald eagle.
  • Crayons (enough for the entire class)
  • Paper
  • 10 rubber balls of different sizes
  • 5 meter sticks (enough for all the groups)
  • Paperclip
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Large collection of sticks
  • Several balls of string
  • Moss
  • Shredded paper
  • Clay (enough for the entire class)
  • Information about owls (see booklist)
  • 6 Manila envelopes

Learning objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify several unique characteristics of birds
  • Name several different species of birds
  • Understand the basics of how birds fly
  • Define a bird of Prey
  • Make a nest of their own
  • Give a short presentation on a specific bird

Additional Resources

Books about Owls - lots of neat titles!
Vocabulary - The bird's the word!
Presentation Guidelines:  Guidelines for groups on what to "teach to the class."

Lesson 1   Pre-Viewing Activities

Bring in several different types of feathers. Lay out all of these feathers on a table in the front of the class.  Lead students in discussion: "What are these?" (feathers)  "What animals have feathers?" (birds)
Ask the students what they know about birds. Write down these responses on the chalkboard or whiteboard. Before erasing these items, write them down on paper for use later in the lesson.

Show the class a picture of a bald eagle. Ask the students: "What is this?" (bird or eagle)  "What kind of bird is this?" (eagle)
"What is your favorite bird?"  After all the students have answered, have them draw a picture of that bird. Hang up these pictures around the room, or in designated place for art.

Provide a focus for students
Have students keep track of the birds they see in the video.

Viewing Activities
the video at the beginning where Bill dressed as a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder.
Pause the video after Bill falls through the floor to the ground. Ask the students what kinds of birds they saw. Ask the students what different kinds of birds they can think of. Write the responses on the chalkboard.

Provide a focus for students
The students should be told to look for facts about birds that they didn't know before, such as what helps birds to fly. Encourage the students to write down what they see. Resume the video after all the students have responded, or there is no more room on the chalkboard.

Resume the video and pause after the "consider the following" segment. Ask the students what physical characteristics make it possible for birds to fly. If the students have trouble refer back the video and refresh their memory (such as birds have hollow bones).
Ask the students what new things they have learned about birds. Write these responses on the chalkboard. Be sure to write these down on paper before erasing.

Post-Viewing Activities

Break the students up into small groups of 3 or 4 students per group. Give each group a feather, a rubber ball (different sizes per group), a sheet of paper (different types of paper per group) and a meter stick. Have the students drop each object from 1/2 meter and then 1 meter, each time noting which object took the longest time to fall.

Be sure to walk around talking to each group about the results they are getting and why they are getting those results. This also provides a good opportunity to have them practice using the metric system. Perhaps asking them if it would take the feather longer to fall from 1 meter or one foot.

After all the groups have had time to experiment have the class engage in a group discussion about how feathers help birds fly: Because they are light and aerodynamic. This could also be a good time to work on new vocabulary such as airfoil and aerodynamic.

owlbook.gif (21062 bytes)

Lesson 2

Remind students about the things they learned about birds in the previous lessons.

Provide a focus for students
The students should be told to think about why the feather behaves like it does. Tell them to think about what they learned in the previous viewing activity.

Viewing activities
the video after the first Jackie Schmazz segment, just before the "Try This" segment. Pause the video after the "Try This" Segment.

Post Viewing Activities
Bring out a piece of cardboard and a feather; set up like it is in the video. Prepare this before class. Have several students come up and blow on the feather like the girl did in the video (before she asked the question).

After several students have made the feather move, ask them what they think would happen if it were turned around. Once they have made hypotheses, turn the feather around. Again have several students come up and blow on the feather to see what happens.

Repeat the experiment, this time asking what will happen if the feather starts out flat. Do this by holding the feather out parallel with the table top. Do this with the feather right side up and upside down. Each time ask the students what they think will happen. Be sure to give all of the students who want an opportunity to make the feather "fly".



Lesson 3

Write on the chalkboard what the students have learned so far about birds. Ask them if they have learned anything else. Add these comments to the list on the board and on paper.

Provide a focus for students  The students should be asked to pay attention to words they have not heard before and words they don't understand. Also remind them to write down anything new they learn while watching the segment.

Viewing Activities
the video after the "Try This" segment, beginning with birds of prey.  Pause the video right after Bill waves the two feathers to show the different sounds they make. Ask the students why would an owl's feathers not make a sound. Suggest an idea such as there is not as much noise during the night so they need to be quiet to hunt.  This would be a good point to introduce some new vocabulary words, such as prey. Ask the students which words they didn't understand and write these down on the board. If no other students know the meaning, write the meaning on the board for them. Include words from previous days such as lift and airfoil.

Provide a focus for students
The student should be asked to focus on the reason birds see better than we do.

Resume the video after all the students' questions have been answered. Pause the video after the segment on birds’ eyes when Bill says: " all the information at once ... see." Ask the students:  "If I have 8 cells for sensing light in my eyes, how many cells does a bird have that has 8 times as many cells?" (64). You may wish to omit this break in the video if the students have not gone this far in multiplication tables. Be sure to go through the problem with them if necessary, writing it out on the chalkboard.

Lesson 4

Write the list of things the students have learned on the board to refresh their memory on the topic. Ask them if they have anything new to add to the list. Add any new information they have learned about birds.

Provide a focus for students 
The students should be focusing on where different birds live. Ask them to think about what their houses would look like if they were a bird.

Viewing Activities
the video starting with the penguins. You may wish to omit the few minutes talking about males looking for mates.
Pause video after segment on bird's nests, when Bill says "get the idea."  Ask the students:  "What kinds of things can be used to make a bird's nest?" "Where can the birds get these things?"

Post Viewing Activities
Bring out the materials to make a bird’s nest: twigs, string, moss, clay (acts as mud), and scraps of shredded paper. Make sure there is plenty of material for each student. Have each student imagine what kind of nest they would like if they were a bird. Have them each build that nest they imagine. Be sure to walk around helping each student individually. Spend time helping and encouraging each student in the class. Once they have completed their nests, put the nests on display in the classroom.
Discuss with the students the difficulties they had building their nests.  Emphasize the tough task birds have when they have to build a nest.

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Lesson 5

Provide a focus for students

The students should be asked to remember what new things they have learned about birds as they watch the music video. They should also be thinking about what other questions they have about birds.

Viewing Activities
the video at beginning of the music video. Stop the video at the end of the music video. Write on one board what the students said they knew about birds at the beginning of the unit on the first day. On a separate board write down all of the facts the students say they have learned since then. Ask them if there is anything else they have learned. Add those items to the list. Ask the students what else they would like to know about birds. Write those on a chalkboard. Suggest that the students find out these things and share the new knowledge with the class later in the semester.  Wrap up the interaction by answering any questions the students ask.

Lesson 6

This activity allows the students to further investigate about birds. This activity could be used for any type of bird, such as an owl in this case.

Break the students up into 4 or 5 groups with five or six members in each group. Be sure to divide the students up so that each group contains students of varying reading levels. Have the students draw from a hat a type of Owl. Give each group a packet of information about their specific Owl.
The students then have one week to prepare a short (approximately 5min) presentation on their owl. Included in each packet is a checklist of things the students need to be looking for about their owl. (see the attached book list for examples of where to get the information for the packets.) 


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