wNetSchool HomeThe Practical Web Service for K-12 TeacherswNetStation
WNET Educational Initiatives
Instructional Television
Lesson Plan Database

Grades 3 - 5


This lesson has been designed to show students the unique structure birds possess-feathers-and how they maneuver them in flight. The students should employ problem-solving skills in small group activities, investigating variations in the wing formations of their paper airplanes, reflecting on the various wing formations found with the Canadian Geese (jet plane), Jays (bush plane), and Seagulls (glider) to determine which works best.

The video has been chosen which explains the different types of feathers and special flight feathers that are similar to a plane-wing design. The students should be able to identify the flight feathers as special contour feathers on a bird's wing that lift the bird off the ground keeping it in the air much the same way an airplane wing does. Hands-on activities, and making kites emphasize the designs that are unique to birds in flight.
ITV Series
TAKE A LOOK #7: Flight
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
per person :
per group of four students :
per class:
Pre-Viewing Activities
Write the word "flight" on the chalkboard. Lead a discussion encompassing the many ways that flight can be observed. Ask, "Where have you seen birds or planes in flight?" Record the answer on chalkboard as the students respond. "What have you noticed about the flight pattern when a bird or plane begins to slow down?" (gliding, banking, etc.) During this brainstorming session, invite students to come up to the chalkboard and draw what they have seen. Display pictures of Canadian geese, Jays and Sea gulls in flight. Draw attention to their wings, asking, "What do you notice about the shape and position of these birds' wings when comparing them to airplanes?"

Divide the class into groups of four students each. Distribute ditto paper, crayons and scissors to each group. Tell the students, "Each group will make three paper airplanes using various wing shapes and designs. Decorate them with crayons using colors that symbolize a particular bird they have just discussed. (Decorate them with crayon designs that show sleek wings.) Allow time for groups to discuss possible methods and create appropriate paper airplane models.

Have the students mark off 5, 10, and 15 meters from a starting point at one end of the classroom. Designate one student from each group to measure the distance each plane/bird is able to fly (in meters). You may wish to guide the students in this process and make a class graph on chart paper of the "flight." Have the students discuss each wing design and its success or failure in flight.

Display the class graph on a classroom bulletin board surrounded by the students' paper-airplane designs.
Focus Viewing
Return to class and prepare for the video viewing. At this point you may say, " We will find out how birds are adapted for flight with special types of feathers and unique construction of their feathers." To give the students a focus while viewing say, "Watch the video and be prepared to share some flight information about our fine feathered friends." The video should be stopped periodically to enhance brainstorming sessions.

Viewing Activities
Begin the video immediately following Kate and the boy breaking the wish bone. The audio is, "Are you collecting the feather too?"

PAUSE at "zipper" comment. Allow the students to discuss what a feather looks like under a microscope and reflect on the feather's 3 parts (hollow main shaft, barbs, and barbules). Record their responses on the chalkboard. Explain the function of each part. Encourage the students to share their explanations of functions for each feather part and record them on chalkboard. Ask, "How are the barbules held together?" (tiny hooks)

PAUSE at, "The bird zips the feather up again by pulling it through its beak." To give the students a specific responsibility while viewing, say, "What is another word for birds zipping up their feathers?" (preening) Give the students an opportunity to discuss and give examples of their pet birds (canaries and parakeets) preening at home and describe what it looks like. Ask, "Did you realize your bird was zipping up its feathers?"

PAUSE at, "Are birds the only animals that have feathers?" Ask the students, "How many types of feathers can you name? Write function on the chalkboard. Discuss the definition of function. (role or operation of feather part)

To give the students a specific responsibility while viewing say, "Watch this video segment to see all three types of feathers in order to understand the function of each. (contour -- covers bird's body giving it a streamline shape, down -- close to birds body to keep bird warm, and ornamental -- to decorate a fancy bird)

PAUSE at, "What about the wind, Kate?" Discuss the three types of feathers, let students draw them and reflect on the function of each. Write flight feathers on the chalkboard.

To give the students a responsibility while viewing say, "Watch this segment to see how the contour feathers, making up a bird's wing, are like an airplane's wing." (thick at front, thin at back)

PAUSE at the boy flying around the room. Ask, "What happens if the flight feathers are lost or damaged? (the bird cannot fly) Ask, "Do you know why a bird has tail feathers?" Allow the students to reflect and share their ideas.

PAUSE at feathers' sample. Ask, "Were you correct?" Begin playing the video at the end of ornamental sample. (The TAKE A LOOK logo appears in upper left corner.) Say, "You are going to see three birds in flight, Canadian Geese, Jays, and Sea gulls. They are similar to a jet, glider and bush plane. They have wings especially suited to the way they fly. Listen to hear the function and plane similarity for each.

PAUSE at the end of the Canadian Geese segment. Ask, "What is the shape of the Canadian geese wings? What type of plane do the wings resemble? (long narrow wings designed for speed like a jet plane)

PAUSE at the end of the Jay segment. Ask, "What is the shape of the Jay's wings? What type of plane does it resemble? (wings are short and wide like a tiny bush plane)

PAUSE at end of segment on sea gull. Ask, "What is the shape of the sea gull wings? (long, narrow wings like a glider plane)

STOP at end of hummingbird segment.
Post-Viewing Activities
Ask, "What do you know about birds in flight now?" Guide a discussion on the variations in the wing formations of the birds they saw in flight in the video, TAKE A LOOK #7: Flight. Say, "We are now going to explore how the breezes help the birds to take flight and glide for many hours. We will be making and decorating a glider. We will build our kites like a bird -- light and strong."

Distribute: tape, scissors, two 20" sticks, string, large sheet of newsprint paper to each group, Say, "Each group is going to make their own glider using the materials you have just been given."

Have the students explore the different shapes of the kites they have made. Relate to each group and draw on the chalkboard. (Directions below may be adapted to their design.)

Choose a design agreeable to all. Have the students lay their newsprint on a flat surface and draw a circle 40" in diameter. Have the students lay two 20" sticks parallel on the circle, 16" apart. Tape the sticks to the back of the circle. Draw and cut out a 14" x 7" rectangle. (This is an air hole and should be reinforced with tape so the kite will not tear.) Then connect the line from the bottom edge of the sticks to the outer edge of the circle toward the top of the kite. Reinforce the kite with tape at each corner connection. Cut the curved edges around the circle. Tie the string to reinforce the corners. The students may choose to decorate their kites with crayons or paint. Pick a nice sunny day with moderate winds to test out the kites.
Action Plan
Contact a local ornithologist, and have him/her visit the classroom to discuss the flight patterns of various birds in the area.

Engage the students in a letter-writing campaign to local environmental groups, requesting information on how migratory birds are being protected in your area.

Contact local airports and arrange a visit to investigate firsthand: types of planes, which ones reflect the same mentioned in TAKE A LOOK video, and how they have designed the wings for successful flight.

Plan a Let's-Fly-My-Kite day. Have the students enjoy a nice sunny, windy day flying the kites designed in Post-Viewing Activity.
Enjoy the variety of literature dealing with main characters that can fly. Include the mythical Pegasus and Daedalus and storybook characters Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and Dumbo.

MAN FROM THE SKY, Avi, 1980 Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
HAWK, I'M YOUR BROTHER, Byrd Baylor, 1976, Aladdin Books.
PROJECT WILD ELEMENTARY: ELEMENTARY ACTIVITY GUIDE, 1986 Western Regional Environmental Council, P.O. Box 18060, Boulder, CO 80308-8060.
NATURE CARDS: BIRDS, The Nature Conservancy, 1992, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Social Studies:
Investigate the lives of Amelia Earhardt and the Wright Brothers. Connect special events in their lives to their love of flight. Reflect on how the Wright Brothers focused on birds in their design at Kitty Hawk.

Design your own bird, pay particular attention to the unusual ways the bird adapts to the environment. (example long narrow beak, wide sloping wings, tail) Pay particular attention to bright colorful plumage. Display it in the art corner.

Language Arts:
Create a presentation of poems exploring birds in flight. Include shape poems and poetry patterns. (a concrete poem written in the shape of a poem's main idea) add variety to the display by color coding the words - example: verbs would be red, adjectives yellow.

Have the students look beyond the birds' feathers and explore the bone structure of winged vertebrates and invertebrates. Write reports on bats, hawks, and pterosaurs to expand their horizons in flight functions. Explore the differences in the wing design.

Master Teachers: Mark Bailey and Judy Lynne Hester.

Top of lesson

Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online