Soar Like a Condor

Instructional Objectives
Background Material
Web Resources

Topic: The Aeronautics of the Flight of the Condor

Instructional Objectives: Students will:

1. Construct a model condor and fly it.

2. Participate in a contest to see which condor stays aloft the longest period of time.

3. Research the size, range and habits of the Andean condor.

Background Material:

The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus, scientific name) has a length of 3-4 feet, and a wingspan of 9-10 feet. They weigh about 2-16 pounds and nest in rock cavities in the Andes Mountains of Patagonia. The Andean condor is black with some white on the wings. The male condor has a crest about four inches long and the female condor has no crest. The condor also has a bald head.

The range of the Andean condor is commonly found from Columbia down the Andes to the southern tip of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego. Andean condors live at altitudes of 10,000 to 16,000 feet. Condors soar through the air and search for carrion. Condors are highly secretive. Condors use rising air currents to fly and avoid using energy to flap their wings.

(Source: Great Book of Birds, Edited by Arnoldo Mondadori, Arch Cape Press, New York, 1980.)

Activity: Soar Like A Condor

Target Grade Level: Middle Level Grades 5-9

Materials Needed:

- Scissors
- Crayons or colored markers
- Printed model of condor parts and assembly instructions
- Clear tape or glue
- Open area to fly models outside on a calm day or gym where there is no wind
- Student science journals
- White (stiff) tagboard
- Graph paper needed to graph each condor and its flight time

1. Click here to view and print the body of the condor model, and here for the wings. Both pages have assembly instructions.
2. Color condor parts according to the color key below or visit a condor web site to see photos of condors for custom coloration.

Color Key
The proboscis (appendage) on the head of the male condor is dark gray to black.
- The face is red
- The beak is a dirty yellow
- The collar is white
- The body is dark gray to black
- The portion of wing which is 2/3 closest to the body, the bottom two layers of feathers are light gray
-The remainder of the wing is dark gray to black

3. Cut out and assemble the condor parts using tape or glue as needed. Glue the two body parts together and cut a slit on dotted line for wings. Glue or tape wings together to form one piece and then slide through body. Cut slit in tail and slide into tail section of body. You might want to have student glue model on stiff cardboard and then cut out parts.

4. Test fly assembled condors inside the school gym if possible .

5. Hold contest to see which condor stays aloft the longest.

6. Graph results of condor flying contest.

7. Research condors in library or on the World Wide Web and be prepared to present your findings to the class in the International Patagonian Wildlife conference.

8. Record your research in the student science journals.

Evaluation/Alternative Assessment:

Students will present to the class in a Patagonian Wildlife Conference the results of the research on condors. (See lesson on PBS International Patagonian Wildlife Conference) Students will reflect on observations about how condors stay aloft and record it in student science journals following the contest.

Establish a rubric for evaluation of condors made by students, include work habits, color schemes, ability to fly, etc.

Elementary Extension:

Construct the Andean model condor and hold a contest to see which one stays aloft the longest. Discuss the relationship between the model condor and a paper airplane.

High School Extension:

Compare and contrast the differences between the Andean condor and the California condor. Analyze the environment, needs of the condor, and predict the future of both species. Access the research on condors on the World Wide Web.

Web Resources:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: California Condor

National Parks Conservation Association

Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

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