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In this simulation of natural selection, learners use binder clips in three different sizes to represent the diversity of beak sizes in a bird population. They use the "beaks" to collect food--if they collect enough to survive and/or reproduce, they and possibly their offspring play the next round. In the subsequent rounds, the food supply changes, putting an adaptive pressure on the population. Learners track how the population changes over time and see possible speciation in progress. This activity is more advanced than the classic bird beak activity in that the different sizes of clips represent birds that are not only adapted to different food, but also have different caloric requirements to survive and reproduce.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
    • Ecology
      • Populations
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • 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
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Janulaw, Al ; Scotchmoor, Judy


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of California, 2011