Unit A: Plants, Animals, and People

What bird flaps its wings the fastest?

1. Get Set to Explore


  • beak: The hard part of a bird's mouth. Another word for beak is bill.
  • flower: The part of a plant that makes fruits and seeds.
  • nectar: The juice made in a flower.
  • wing: The part of a bird that allows the bird to fly.

Building Background

  • Review the vocabulary words and definitions with the class.
  • Explain to children that birds are very special animals with the following important body parts: wings, feathers, and beaks. Discuss the function of each of these body parts. You may wish to refer to Student Edition pages A34 and A41 during the discussion. Explain that feathers have two functions: they help keep birds warm and they help many birds fly. Point out that birds often use their beaks to get food.
  • Help children understand that all birds have wings but that not all birds fly. Point out that penguins and ostriches are birds that do not use their wings for flying. Explain that some birds use their wings both for flying and for swimming. Auks are an example of birds that use their wings for both.
  • Ask children to describe some of the different birds that live in your area.
  • Review the Discover! question and ask children to predict which bird flaps its wings the fastest.

2. Guide the Exploration

  • Have children launch the Discover! Simulation and listen closely to the question and the directions.
  • Children should spend some time watching the bird animations.
  • Ask children: From watching the simulation, which bird do you think flaps its wings the fastest? Allow volunteers to share their ideas.
  • Direct children to test their predictions by clicking the bird that they think flaps the fastest. The Flap-o-Meter readout will show children the rate at which each bird flaps its wings.
  • Encourage children to learn more about the fastest flapper, the hummingbird, by clicking the Next button.
  • Before children begin moving the cursor over the different parts of the hummingbird diagram, you might ask: How do you think the hummingbird's fast flapping helps it to meet its needs?

3. Review/Assess

  • Review Step 3's Wrap-Up text with the class and ask children to share any observations or questions that they have.
  • Present the Extension question to the class. Direct children to look at the different birds on the computer screen. Ask: What do the birds have in common? How do the birds differ from one another?
  • After children have had a chance to look closely and compare the three birds, share these answers with the class.
    • All three birds have similar bodies, with wings, eyes, beaks, and feet.
    • The hummingbird is smaller and flaps its wings the fastest; it hovers near flowers to get its food. The mockingbird does not flap its wings as quickly, and the penguin doesn't fly at all.

If time permits, present children with the following questions:

  • Critical Thinking Compare Which body parts do birds have that you do not have? Answer: Birds have beaks and wings, and I do not.
  • Inquiry Skill Draw Conclusions How does the hummingbird's fast flapping help it find food? Answer: It helps it fly from place to place in search of flowers; once it finds flowers, fast flapping helps the bird hover near the flower to feed.

4. Reaching All Learners

English Language Learners

Review each of the vocabulary words and their definitions with the children. Print a copy of the hummingbird from the simulation. Have children label each of the body parts. Make sure that they label the beak, wings, and eyes correctly. Once they've labeled these body parts, direct the children to draw and label a flower on the page to show where the hummingbird finds its food.