The Beaks of the Finches

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In this simulation, learners become birds different beak types. Learners use various tools to represent beaks to pick up seeds and place them in a petri dish. After completing the activity and collecting data, learners will relate results to adaptations and natural selection. Extensions of the simulation allow for comparative results and include population genetics.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 10-12 petri dishes
  • 5-6 large Syracuse dishes
  • 12 different tool types-wire cutters, wire stripper, blunt-end pliers, sharp-end pliers, clothes pin, cable attacher, pruning shearers, vise-pliers, long-handled vise, another wire stripper/cutter combo tool, needle-nosed pliers and wire clip
  • Two bags of seed types such as, black sunflower seeds and popcorn


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Populations
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Patterns of Heredity
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Literature
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Sprague, Cherry