Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-12, features All About Birds Anatomy, a virtual bird interactive in which students build birds from the inside out. As they play, students discover the name and function of each part of a bird’s anatomical system.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Learn about the anatomical system of a bird.
  2. Reflect on differences between birds and other animals, including humans.
  3. Share knowledge about bird anatomy with classmates.



anatomy, musculatory system, skeletal system, respiratory system, digestive system, circulatory system, urogenital system, endocrine system


This lesson plan features an interactive called All About Birds Anatomy created by our partner,  Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Academy. A playful exploration, the interactive invites students to learn about bird anatomy by building birds from the inside out.

Preview and play All About Birds Anatomy to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Print classroom set of Human and Bird Anatomy illustration.  

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices
Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Birds, Penguin, Six Kingdoms, Skeleton, Joints, Bats, and Avian Flu.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. To get students thinking about birds, show the BrainPOP movie Birds on the whiteboard or other display. Pause, as needed, at points when Tim discusses bird anatomy and body systems.
  2. Now divide students into small groups to discuss what they know about birds. Distribute Human and Bird Anatomy illustration to each student or small group. Have groups create a two-column table. On one side, they are to brainstorm what makes birds unique, or different from other animals. On the other, they are to discuss how birds are similar to other animals, including humans. Encourage them to review the Human and Bird Anatomy illustration to get ideas.
  3. After groups brainstorm, bring the class together again to share their brainstorming.
  4. Staying with the same groups, have students open All About Birds Anatomy on their own computers or devices. Explain that this interactive lets them build a bird’s body from the inside out while learning the names and functions of each part. Allow groups a few mintues to explore and to see how it works.
  5. Now assign each group a different color that corresponds with one of the colors in All About Birds Anatomy. Have them find the body system for their color and prompt them to click through the different parts of that system to find out where in the bird each part is located its role within the bigger system.
  6. Have groups choose 4-5 parts within their system to present to the class, with each student taking one part to focus on. Suggest that they write a brief summary of their part’s function on an index card to use as reference for their presentation. Give groups about 15 minutes to go through this process.
  7. Display All About Birds Anatomy on the whiteboard for the whole class to see. Invite groups to come up to the screen one at a time to present. Begin with groups assigned to internal organs. As students present, have them check off the body part so it displays on the bird, but they should not click the info button as they will be the ones presenting the information.
  8. After all groups have presented, have them revisit the lists that they made at the beginning of the lesson and compare their initial brainstorm with what they now know.
  9. Finally, have students (either individually or with their group) activate the Flashcard mode and put their bird anatomy knowledge to the test!

Extension Activities:

  • Ask students, Do birds have hands? Then have them explore the bird’s skeletal system and describe the similarities and differences between a bird’s skeleton and a human skeleton. They may use the Human and Bird Anatomy illustration to help them.
  • Have small teams discuss what anatomical adaptations birds have that help them fly. Then have each team collaborate on turning on all parts of the bird they consider adaptations for flight. Groups then present to the full class to defend their list of adaptations.
  • Have students build a wing and learn about its parts in All About Bird Anatomy. Then challenge them to use what they learned to build a wing with popsicle sticks, toothpicks, paper, and tape.