Raptors: Senses and Influences


Raptors possess keen senses and maneuvering skills that have been envied by humans throughout time. The traits of raptors have long been studied for the development of aircraft. How are the raptors’ senses different from humans’ senses? How have humans and raptors interacted over time? In this lesson, students will compare human traits to those of raptors and create an interactive and information booth to share with classmates. They will further investigate how raptors and humans have interacted and look at the ways raptors’ traits have influenced the design of aircraft. Students will create a newsletter summarizing their thoughts and findings.

Grade level: Grades 6 – 8

Subject areas: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies

Learning objectives:

  • Students will be able to do the following:
  • gather and organize information
  • create an information booth
  • create an activity for classmates’ participation
  • compare traits of humans to those of raptors
  • examine the relationship between humans and raptors
  • compare raptors to aircraft


Bookmark the following sites:

Our Living Resources

This web page contains an article by National Biological Service that is a summary of raptor status based on the biological literature and on state and federal government reports.

The Raptor Center

The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, conservation, and study of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons.

The Peregrine Fund: World Center for Birds of Prey

This website contains a wealth of information relating to raptors.

Birds of Prey

This website contains facts about raptors.

Raptor Force Web site
The online companion to NATURE’s Raptor Force



Language Arts


Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Benchmark 6. Writes expository compositions (e.g., states a thesis or purpose; presents information that reflects knowledge about the topic of the report; organizes and presents information in a logical manner, including an introduction and conclusion; uses own words to develop ideas; uses common expository structures and features, such as compare-contrast or problem-solution)8. Writes for different purposes (e.g., to entertain, inform, learn, communicate ideas)

Benchmark 7. Writes narrative accounts, such as short stories (e.g., engages the reader by establishing a context and otherwise developing reader interest; establishes a situation, plot, persona, point of view, setting, conflict, and resolution; develops complex characters; creates an organizational structure that balances and unifies all narrative aspects of the story; uses a range of strategies and literary devices such as dialogue, tension, suspense, figurative language, and specific narrative action such as movement, gestures, and expressions; reveals a specific theme)

Benchmark 10. Writes persuasive compositions (e.g., engages the reader by establishing a context, creating a persona, and otherwise developing reader interest; develops a controlling idea that conveys a judgment; creates and organizes a structure appropriate to the needs and interests of a specific audience; arranges details, reasons, examples, and/or anecdotes persuasively; excludes information and arguments that are irrelevant; anticipates and addresses reader concerns and counter arguments; supports arguments with detailed evidence, citing sources of information as appropriate)


Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

Benchmark 1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., electronic texts; textbooks; biographical sketches; directions; essays; primary source historical documents, including letters and diaries; print media, including editorials, news stories, periodicals, and magazines; consumer, workplace, and public documents, including catalogs, technical directions, procedures, and bus routes)

Life Sciences

Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment

Benchmark 2. Knows factors that affect the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support (e.g., available resources; abiotic factors such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition; disease; competition from other organisms within the ecosystem; predation)

Nature of Science

Standard 11: Understand the nature of scientific knowledge.

Benchmark 2. Understands the nature of scientific explanations (e.g., use of logically consistent arguments; emphasis on evidence; use of scientific principles, models, and theories; acceptance or displacement of explanations based on new scientific evidence)


Introductory Activity

Time for Completion: Thirty minutes.

The purpose of this activity is to activate background knowledge of raptors.

Provide each student with a piece of paper, and ask them to create a word web. Tell them to write the word “Raptor” in the center of the paper. Next, have students create “arms” extending out from “Raptor” that names the different kinds of raptors that they know. For each arm, students should include other information they know about that raptor, and any questions they would like to have answered about it.

Watch the introduction to “Raptors” from the beginning 00:00 to 02:07. Ask students to fill in any answers to questions from their webs that may have been addressed in the introduction. After students have filled in their answers, ask them to read any questions aloud that they were unable to answer. Allow other students who may have the answers to provide them; otherwise, the question can be recorded and researched as a homework assignment. A sample word web is included at the end of this lesson.


Activity One

Time for completion: Thirty minutes to explain and prepare the assignment. Three to five days as homework. Additional class time for students to observe, evaluate, and participate in the activities at the booths of other students.

Raptors have sensory skills that are more acute than human sensory skills. In this activity, students will work in small groups to create a “Raptor Information Booth” in which each student group will provide information that compares the senses or traits of a raptor to those of humans. Each booth will also contain an interactive component.

Watch portions of “Raptors” that describe the sensory skills and/or adaptations of raptors. Sections addressing these include: 10:19 extra eyelid/tears/breathing systems; 32:56 ears; 36:17 and 40:47 eyes.

Divide the class into small groups.

Allow each group to choose a sense/adaptation to study. (More than one group can work on the same sense/adaptation.) Explain to students that they are going to create an information booth on their specific raptor sense or adaptation.

The booth should include the following: a poster or brochure that includes factual information about raptors, including a description of raptor abilities in comparison to human abilities, a visual aid (e.g., a 3-d model, chart, diagram, etc) and an interactive activity for the class to try. Some suggestions for the activity include setting up a place where students can compare 20/20 vision to 20/7 vision, an item that can be used to amplify hearing, and a place where students can measure their “wing span” and compare that to the wing span of specific raptors.

Allow time for groups to work on creating their booths. Then, provide time for students to visit the other booths. You may also choose to invite another class in to see the booths. A peer evaluation of the booths may be conducted.

Activity Two

In this activity, students build on what was learned in Activity One by investigating the relationship between raptors and humans throughout time. Students will also investigate the influence raptors have had on aircraft design.

Time for completion: One to two class periods.

Provide students with the “Human-Raptor Relationship” organizer to record information from articles, Internet research and class discussions. This information will later be used to create a newsletter.

Using the Internet, media center or other resources, allow students time to explore the relationship between humans and raptors. How have raptors influenced human inventions? What have humans done to help raptors?

Provide students with the opportunity to visit the History of Falconry section of the PBS Nature website. Have students record their findings in the “Human-Raptor Relationship” organizer.

Have students watch the slide show section of the PBS Nature site. Again, have the students record their notes and thoughts on the organizer.

Divide the class into small groups, ask them to create a newsletter sharing and summarizing their findings. The newsletter requirements include a story about the history of falconry, a story about human-raptor relationships, a story about the influence of raptors on aviation, a letter to the editor, a raptor puzzle or trivia quiz, a comic, at least one picture, and a chart or diagram.

Students may share their newsletters with the class if time allows.

Assessment Suggestions

Raptor booths may be assessed using the “Information Booth Rubric” and the “Peer Evaluation Rubric.” The “Newsletter Rubric” may be used to assess students’ raptor newsletters.

Extension Activity

Identify raptor habitats in your area. Find out the number and types of raptors that live near you. Find out if they being threatened and what (if anything) is being done to protect them.

About the Author

This lesson was prepared by Rebecca Walters. Rebecca is a graduate of Northern Michigan University and holds an education degree in chemistry and math. Rebecca has worked as both a public school educator and as an education consultant over the past fifteen years.

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