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Can You Flap and Fly?

The Earth pulls everything down towards its centre, this pull is called the force of gravity.

Humans are not physically designed to fly. We cannot create enough lift to overcome the force of gravity (or our weight).

It's not only wings that allow birds to fly.

Their light frame and hollow bones make it easier to counteract gravity. Air sacs inside their bodies make birds lighter, which enables smoother motion through air. The shape of their body helps reduce air resistance when flying, and their muscles are extremely powerful compared to their body.

Bird lungs are also designed so that when birds breathe they absorb a lot of oxygen, which is needed to keep the muscles working over long periods of time.

Why are birds' wings covered in feathers? They catch the air and force it downward when they flap. This creates lift and pushes birds up in the sky.

Airfoils are the human engineered version of bird wings. Airfoil is the term for the cross-sectional shape of a plane wing, helicopter blade, or a propeller, rotor, or turbine,

Objectives

  • Identify adaptations that make flying possible for birds.

Materials

  • a large playing area

  • human-size airfoils/wings, made out of foam or cardboard (optional)

Key Questions

  • Why do our arms not work as wings?
  • Which force pulls us to the ground?
  • What force are you trying to create for take-off?
  • Are wings the only adaptation birds use to fly?

What To Do

  1. The students spread out and find their own space.
  2. Encourage them to flap their arms and try to fly (perhaps they could make a run for it to see if it helps?).
  3. Brainstorm reasons why they cannot take off.
  4. Would it help to have wings? Try adding foam or cardboard airfoils to their arms

Extensions

  • What other creatures can fly?
  • How do bees and hummingbirds fly when their bodies look too big for their wings?
  • Are bees designed more like airplanes or like helicopters?
  • Draw a picture of a human who had the physical features necessary to fly. Label the adaptations that would be required.