Aviary Architect

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In this activity, learners are challenged to design, build and test a birdhouse that will stay cool in the sun. Learners investigate concepts such as energy efficiency, properties of light, and heating and cooling principles while they design, build, and test an energy-efficient roof for a birdhouse. Learners test several roofing materials under a heat lamp and record how much the heat rises over time. Using this information, they design a composite roof to achieve their design goal of keeping the birdhouse warm or cool, then test again to see if they have engineered a successful solution. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Craft Birdhouses (with foam plug)
  • Foam Core (varying thicknesses)
  • Poster board (different colors)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Cardboard
  • Cardstock
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Insulating Foam
  • Indoor/outdoor digital thermometers
  • Heat Lamps (250 Watt)
  • Stopwatch
  • Masking Tape
  • Scissors


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
    • Technology
      • Manufacturing
      • Construction
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
      • Heat Transfer

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • , Museum of Science, Boston, 2005

Funding Sources:

  • The Gordon Foundation
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services