Toothless activity

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Toothless activity
Age Range 5-8 (grades 1-2), 8-11 (grades 3-5), 11-14 (grades 6-8)
Group Size medium (6-20)
Setting indoors
Setup Time medium (6-30 min)
Duration medium (11-30 min)
Subjects birds, teeth
Key terms crop, digestion, gravel
Materials needle nose pliers, sunflower seeds in shell, cup, water, plastic bag, gravel
Presentation Style demonstration, model, student led

Brief Description

Students create a model of a bird's digestive crop (where the bird grinds up its food). Birds do not have teeth to chew so they have to do their "chewing" in their crop.


Students demonstrate how a bird’s crop grinds food in the place of teeth.

This Is How You Play

Before the Activity:

  1. Look at pictures of birds and discuss the differences between bird eating habits and other animals’ eating habits. What do birds seem to be missing? (teeth) What do birds eat? (insects, seeds, worms, etc)
  2. Allow students to get an up-close look at a bird – direct them to pay particular attention to the bird’s mouth. How does it seem to work?

The Activity:

  1. Pass out pliers to students (students can share in groups of 2 or 3). Give students safety instructions for using the pliers.
  2. Discuss how birds get through hard seed shells to the food inside. Allow students to use the pliers to break open the shells of ten or so sunflower seeds.
  3. Separate the seeds from the shells. Discard the shells and place the seeds in a cup.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of water to the cup containing the seeds. Allow the seeds to soak for up to 30 minutes, no more.
  5. Pass out a plastic bag to each group. Have students place the wet seeds in the plastic bag.
  6. Discuss how a bird’s crop works. What do bird’s eat that helps with digestion? (small rocks)
  7. Add gravel to the plastic bag. Let students place the bag between the palms of hands and rub hands back and forth.
  8. Observe how the gravel grinds against the seeds inside the bag.
  9. Spend one minute observing the seeds after grinding them with the stones.

Results: the seeds are ground into a mush by the stones like inside the bird’s crop.


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