ALEX Lesson Plan


Which Beak is "On Fleek"?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Katrina McGrady
System: Talladega County
School: Talladega County Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34528


Which Beak is "On Fleek"?


In the urban dictionary, “on fleek” is currently a popular slang term that describes something that is  “flawlessly styled or groomed.”  In this lesson, the students will explore the concept of evolution by using their engineering skills to “build” various bird beaks that are “flawlessly styled,” or “on fleek,” for capturing different types of food.  Finally, the students will use argument-driven inquiry to design an experiment and use claim, evidence, and reasoning to justify which “bird” is best adapted to survive during conditions of limited resources.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
14 ) Analyze and interpret data to evaluate adaptations resulting from natural and artificial selection that may cause changes in populations over time (e.g., antibiotic-resistant bacteria, beak types, peppered moths, pest-resistant crops).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L12.12: Molecular evidence substantiates the anatomical evidence for evolution and provides additional detail about the sequence in which various lines of descent branched.

NAEP Statement::
L12.13: Evolution is the consequence of the interactions of (1) the potential for a species to increase its numbers, (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes, (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life, and (4) the ensuing selection from environmental pressure of those organisms better able to survive and leave offspring.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Unity and Diversity
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Collect and analyze data to identify patterns in survival and trait frequency in a population of organisms.
  • Analyze and Interpret data about which traits in a population will confer an adaptive advantage while going through changing conditions.
  • Analyze and interpret data to predict how an environmental change could influence selection, driving changes in traits in a species that will persist in the population.
  • Compare and contrast natural and artificial selection and predict how artificial selection will impact the traits of an organism.
  • Analyze and interpret data to evaluate the impact of human intervention in determining the traits of agriculturally important plants and animals.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Artificial selection
  • Natural selection
  • Evolution
  • Genetic variation
  • Geographic variation
  • Mutation
  • Evolutionary fitness
  • Phenotypes
  • Genotypes
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Adaptations
  • Artificial selection
  • Genetic isolation
  • Adaptive radiation
Students know:
  • Organisms can produce enormous numbers of offspring.
  • These offspring must compete for limited resources.
  • These offspring also have genetic differences that are observed as phenotypic trait variations.
  • The offspring whose phenotypes provide the best chance to survive to adulthood and reproduce will pass on the highest frequency of their traits (and therefore genetic differences) to the next generation.
  • The process of directed breeding to produce offspring with desired traits is called selective breeding or artificial selection.
Students are able to:
  • Analyze and interpret data to recognize a pattern in changes in populations over time.
  • Analyze different sources of evidence.
  • Interpret the validity of data.
  • Read and construct a graph.
  • Recognize examples of artificial selection.
  • Predict phenotypic adaptations as a result of changing environments.
  • Compare organisms derived from artificial selection with their wild ancestors, who were products of natural selection.
Students understand that:
  • Natural selection leads to adaptation—to a population dominated by organisms that are anatomically, behaviorally, and physiologically well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment.
  • Survival and reproduction of organisms that have an advantageous heritable trait leads to an increase in the proportion of individuals in future generations that have the trait and to a decrease in the proportion of individuals that do not.
  • The distribution of traits in a population can change when conditions change.
  • Artificial selection allows humans to produce plants or animals with desired traits.
AMSTI Resources:
ASIM Module:
Whale Evolution; Which beak is Best?; Peppered Moth; Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance; Fly Now
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
15 ) Engage in argument from evidence (e.g., mathematical models such as distribution graphs) to explain how the diversity of organisms is affected by overpopulation of species, variation due to genetic mutations, and competition for limited resources.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L12.11: Modern ideas about evolution (including natural selection and common descent) provide a scientific explanation for the history of life on Earth as depicted in the fossil record and in the similarities evident within the diversity of existing organisms.

NAEP Statement::
L12.13: Evolution is the consequence of the interactions of (1) the potential for a species to increase its numbers, (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes, (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life, and (4) the ensuing selection from environmental pressure of those organisms better able to survive and leave offspring.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Crosscutting Concepts: Cause and Effect
Disciplinary Core Idea: Unity and Diversity
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Analyze evidence to describe the main ideas behind natural selection (overproduction of offspring, competition for limited resources, inherited variation in phenotypes and differential survival/reproduction).
  • Use mathematical models to test the concept that organisms with favorable adaptations are more likely to survive and reproduce.
  • Develop a logical argument for a proposed mechanism of evolution, including necessary adaptations, mutations, and environmental changes.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Variation
  • Adaptation
  • Fitness
  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat
  • Ecosystems
  • Diversity
  • Population
  • Population density
  • Limiting factors
  • Carrying capacity
  • Genetic mutation
  • Competition
  • Natural selection
  • Genetic recombination
Students know:
  • As species grow in number, competition for limited resources can arise.
  • Individuals in a species have genetic variation (through mutations and sexual reproduction) that is passed on to their offspring.
  • Genetic variation can lead to variation of expressed traits in individuals in a population.
  • Individuals can have specific traits that give them a competitive advantage relative to other individuals in the species.
  • Individuals that survive and reproduce at a higher rate will provide their specific genetic variations to a greater proportion of individuals in the next generation.
  • Over many generations, groups of individuals with particular traits that enable them to survive and reproduce in distinct environments using distinct resources can evolve into a different species.
  • Natural selection is a process while biological evolution can result from that process.
Students are able to:
  • Identify examples of adaptations among various organisms that increase fitness—camouflage, mimicry, drought tolerance, defensive coloration, beak adaptations.
  • Use reasoning to connect the evidence to construct an argument.
  • Interpret data.
  • Defend a position.
  • Use evidence to correlate claims about cause and effect.
Students understand that:
  • Natural selection occurs only if there is both variation in the genetic information between organisms in a population and variation in the expression of that genetic information (trait variation) that leads to differences in performance among individuals.
  • Evolution is the consequence of the interaction of four factors:
    1. The potential for a species to increase in number.
    2. The genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction.
    3. Competition for an environment's limited supply of the resources that individuals need in order to survive and reproduce.
    4. The ensuing proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
AMSTI Resources:
ASIM Module:
Whale Evolution; Bead Bugs; Which beak is Best?

Local/National Standards:

This lesson addresses the following scientific and engineering practices:

Asking questions and defining problems

Developing and using models

Planning and carrying out investigations

Analyzing and interpreting data

Using mathematics

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Engaging in argument from evidence

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


This lesson addresses the following writing objectives:

1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

a. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

d. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.


Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will describe how bird beak shapes have been “naturally selected” to ensure the survival of various types of birds over time.  

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Learning Targets:

1. Content:  I can describe how evolution in organisms is driven by natural and artificial selection.

2.  Behavior:  I can use the engineering model to collaboratively design and test the food capturing efficiency of various types of bird beaks. (Identify the problem.→ Research/gather possible solutions.→ Pick the BEST solution.→ Build a prototype. → Test the prototype. →  Report results or redesign the prototype.)

3. Content:  I can describe how bird beak shapes have been “naturally selected” to ensure the survival of various types of birds over time.  

4. Behavior:  I can design and conduct a collaborative scientific experiment that will demonstrate the change in diversity of birds in an ecosystem when they must compete for limited resources.  

5. Behavior:  I can use claim, evidence, and reasoning to create a written justification that answers the following question:  Which bird is BEST adapted to survive during conditions of limited resources?

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Various items suggested for bird beak construction: 

Plastic spoons, plastic knives, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, large erasers, pencils, carpenter pencils, chopsticks, craft sticks, duct tape, clothes pins, springs, binder clips, spatulas

*You may add or subtract any items based on your students and your ideas for the specialization of this lesson.  

Various items suggested for food:

Nerds candy, toothpicks, washers, marbles, cereal, uncooked pasta, sunflower seeds, sprinkles, gummy worms, Swedish fish, metal washers

*You may add or subtract any items based on your students and your ideas for the specialization of this lesson.  

Paper plates or cups (to hold “food”)

Chart paper for each group for presentation OR 1 dry erase board per group

Chart marker or dry erase marker to write up presentation

Technology Resources Needed:

For a one-to-one school:  

One computer per group to assist with the production of data spreadsheet and connectivity to an interactive board, TV screen or projector and calculator if needed

For a single computer classroom: 

One computer connected to a projector with spreadsheet software, calculator if needed



1.  Use the attached link to view the 8 stages of Argument-Driven Inquiry if you are not familiar with the process.  Also, review the engineering process so that you are familiar with the model.  

2. Make copies of the graphic organizer, collaboration rubric, the beak engineering rubric, the scientific lab proposal, CER rubric, CER short writing handout OR the report rubric, and the conclusion questions.  

3. Prep the different types of "food" and materials for beak construction.

4.  Make an EDpuzzle or similar activity for the homework assignment before this lesson.  


1.  Before starting this activity, the students need to have some understanding of selection and evolution in biology. The first portion of this plan addresses selection.  

2.  Before starting this activity, procedures for collaboration and lab safety procedures should be taught, modeled, and posted somewhere in the classroom/lab.  Posting group roles and behavior expectations for exploration activities should be posted and readdressed throughout the year.  

Safety Precautions:

1.  Students should only use the beak construction materials for their intended purposes.  Materials should not be destroyed, thrown around the room, or used to touch other students. 

2.  Students should remain seated unless instructed to move.  


This procedure is designed for a 3-day modified block schedule, with (2) 90 minute periods and 1 "skinny" 50-minute period.  If you are on a period schedule, it can be easily divided over 5 class period meetings.  Overall, this activity should take approximately 1 week of class.  

Day 1:  Selection and Bird Beak Engineering

Homework before lesson:  Have the students watch an EDpuzzle video with questions embedded in the video for homework.  You may use this example EDpuzzle video, based on the Bozeman video on Selection, or you may choose any video for your EDpuzzle.  As they watch the video, have them create a Venn diagram or comparison/contrast chart on the two types of selection and add it to their notebook.   

Before Strategy:  (approx. 15 minutes total)

Think, Pair, Share: Break students into pairs for 5 minutes.  Have them discuss their Venn diagrams with each other.  While they are discussing their Venn diagrams, observe students' answers as you circulate the room.  Use the answers that students gave on the EDpuzzle and during their discussion to help direct the class discussion so that any misconceptions are addressed.  Ask students general questions about the video and about the types of selection.    

If time allows, you can present examples of different types of selection and have students choose whether it is natural or artificial selection.  To save time, you can use a program like Kahoot or Plickers to monitor student responses.  If a student still isn’t getting it, you may want to work with that student one on one to help him/her gain a better understanding.  

State your objective by telling students that today they will be exploring selection in biology by using their engineering skills to create a “bird beak” that is most productive for gathering a variety of foods.  


Ask the students, "What does it mean to be 'on fleek?'”  Take student responses and post them.  After a brief discussion, tell students that the urban dictionary defines “on fleek” as having the perfect appearance or design.  Tell the students that they will work in their engineering groups to create a bird beak that will be the most productive in collecting a variety of foods.  

(10 minutes) Create a class Know/Need to Know chart. Tell the students that they will be constructing a beak that is most productive at gathering a variety of food.  Get students to discuss what they know about the activity.  Then, have them discuss what they will need to know.  Complete that column of the chart.  

Give each engineering group the beak engineering rubric. (Also, give them the collaboration rubric if it has not been used in your classroom prior to this activity.) Give the students time to read the rubric and assess if there are any “need to know” items that were not addressed in the rubric.  If there are, have them identify them and ask for clarification.  Then, give the students 10-15 minutes (depending on the work speed and skill of your class) to create a design plan for their bird beak.  Walk around the room and check each design plan.  If the students are missing elements, you can use the rubric to point out the areas where their design may be weak and may need tweaking.  You can use this as a formative assessment to give each group room to improve their plan.  

After their plan is approved, give the group permission to begin the next phase of the engineering process.  Have them construct their beak from their plan in 10-15 minutes.  Walk around the room and formatively assess the collaboration of each group during this phase of the process.  Point out behaviors that are not acceptable and give positive praise when students are meeting or exceeding expectations.  

(30 minutes) Once their beak is constructed, have the students design their engineering test, get it approved by you, test their beak, and record their data.  If you are a one-to-one school, you may want to have the students create a Google spreadsheet for their group’s data on Google Drive and share it with you and their group members.  Otherwise, it is wise to have the students leave their data with you in case the “data recorder” is missing from the next class.  

After:  Give the students an exit slip on selection or the engineering process to help close the lesson for the day.  


Day 2:


Have the students look at their data.  Tell them to brainstorm in their group ways that they could calculate the productivity of their beak for each type of food.  After a group discussion, take answers from the whole class.  Then, show students how to calculate productivity:

Productivity Formula=  # food particles gathered/Given time

Work an example.  Then, have them work an example and check it using explicit instruction.  

Finally, ask the students how they could create a graph to visually represent the productivity of their beak for various types of food. Which type of graph would be BEST? Why?  

Then, have students construct a graph of their productivity.  If you are using Google drive, they can create a digital graph using information from their data spreadsheet.  If not, have them create the graph on paper.  Then, discuss the general beak types of birds and their specialties.  Which beak type best fits your beak design?  Did you find that your beak was best adapted for its predicted specialty food?  (25 minutes)

During:  Argument-Driven Inquiry

Then, ask the students how they could use their “bird beak” and other “bird beaks” to see if their bird is well adapted for survival when different types of food are limited.  

1. Identify the guiding question:  Tell the students that they will be designing an experiment to answer the following question:  Which bird is best adapted for survival when food resources are limited?

2.  Design an experiment and collect data:  Give students constraints:  They can use their engineered bird beak, tweezer beaks, spoon beaks, chopsticks, scissor beaks, etc.  Also, put constraints on the foods that they will need to use.  Be sure to choose foods with a variety of sizes and shapes to test the versatility of the beak.  Have the students write up an experiment design to test their beak.  If needed, you may use one of the blank forms found on  Each group must get their design approved by the teacher before they can move to the experiment phase.  

3.  Analyze the data and create a claim (argument) that answers the question.  The students will analyze their data by using productivity of each beak and complete their group presentation on chart paper using the following format:





4.  Round Robin Presentations:  The students will hang their chart on the wall and use it to present their claim to a peer audience.  Number each member of the group as a 1, 2, 3, or 4.  You can decide which number presents FIRST.  For example, for the first rotation, the ones will present their data.  The other group members will rotate 1 station to do a peer evaluation of the information presented.  They will use the CER rubric as their guide to make suggestions or point out fallacies that may be occurring in the presented claim.  The peer audience’s job is to ask questions to help the presenter. For the next rotation, the 2’s may present.  The 1’s will join their group to listen to the other groups presenting.  A presentation should only last 5 minutes.  


After analyzing the peer review for their claim, evidence, and reasoning during the round robin presentations, each student will do a formal writing, either using the CER Short Writing form handout OR by writing their own individual report.


Assessment Strategies


1.  EDpuzzle video answers--Use student answers to direct the discussion of the homework lesson.  

2.  Student answers during the Venn think, pair, share

3.  Student answers using Plickers

4.  The Group Design Plan checkoff, Group Test Plan Checkoff, and the Group Experiment Proposal will ALL use the same handout located here   I would suggest copying them front and back so that only 1 sheet is used.

7.  Round Robin Presentations Peer Review

8.  CER Self Evaluation


1.  Beak Engineering Design Rubric (Can be used for formative assessment and summative assessment)

2.  CER Rubric

3.  CER Writing (Either short writing or report using the rubrics on this site or another that you have created)


For students who complete their engineering designs early, have them research and create the "parts" of another organism to demonstrate evolution.  

For students who complete their CER activity early, have them type a full report or provide assistance to other students who are "stuck."  


For students who are missing basic concepts during the activity, the instructor can pull students for small group instruction that is specialized for their deficiency.  New questions, matching games, and other fresh ideas can be used to present the material in a manner not previously used in class.  

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.