Beauty and the Beak

Museum of Science Boston Deborah Lee Rose & Jane Veltkamp (authors)
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Instructor Guide/Manual , Informative Text
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Through this educational guide and the nonfiction picture book Beauty and Beak by Deborah Lee Rose,  students learn how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a bald eagle. Beauty and the Beak tells the story of a bald eagle whose beak was shattered.  Using the educational guide that supports the use of the book, students learn the importance of an eagle’s beak to its growth and survival.  The learning is supported by an engineering activity linked in the educational guide, which challenges students to engineer a model prosthetic beak. (

The book Beauty and the Beak can be purchased at or accessed for free with a teacher membership at

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The book Beauty and Beak provides evidence on the importance and function of an eagle’s beak. The teacher might begin by showing students the cover of the book and have them share why they think the eagles beak is shaped the way it is, what they think the eagle uses the beak for besides eating? While reading the story, encourage students to jot down each time they hear a function of the eagle's beak being discussed (cracking open her egg at birth, eating bits of fish from her parents beak, preening her feathers every day, catching and breaking apart food, drinking, building and shaping a nest of twigs). Focus can then be given to what happened when Beauty’s beak was shattered, which will emphasize the importance of this structure and why it was important to reconstruct it for Beauty’s survival. If students are unsure of "preening' as used in the story, teachers can give students background information on the importance of preening, or to keep it simple: Preening is a bird's way of grooming its feathers to keep them in the best condition.

3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The engineering activity referenced in the educational guide ( from the Museum of Boston challenges students to design a prosthetic beak that can successfully unravel braided string as well as pick up small objects. Connections are made between the simulated and actual function of the bird’s beak that allows the eagle to preen its feathers and pick up food to eat. Though it may not mention the word constraints for this particular activity, a materials list is given. The teacher can modify the activity for elementary students by cutting out the model injured beak (paper cup that will act as the bottom beak) for each group prior to beginning the activity and have students design the upper beak with the materials they are given.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students will construct and test models of prosthetic beaks. Students should plan and draw their ideas in their science notebook prior to building, as well as record their ideas and explanations of why they decide to use certain materials. As students revise and improve their beaks to successfully meet the criteria, this should also be continuously documented in their notebooks.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students should use the Testing the Beak pages from the engineering activity, which asks them to rate their designs on a scale of 10-1. Additional pages from the activity ask students to test to see if various objects can be picked up by their designs. After testing their beak and writing down improvements of what worked and what didn’t work, students should be given time to revise and improve and test again to make the beak work better.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The structure and function of eagle beaks is highlighted in the book and the educational guide includes focus questions to hone in on these ideas. Students might create a "flip book", tracing each phase of the eagle's life, depicting each important function of the beak with drawings or captions.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
In the nonfiction text, students can read and see pictures first hand of how the structure of Beauty’s beak changed after it was struck by the poacher. When Beauty was found, she was unable to eat or drink without human help due to the change in the shape of her top beak after she was injured. Students could discuss other types of bird beaks. Teachers can show a video of an eagle eating a fish and/or drinking water so they can see the importance of the shape of an eagle’s beak for their survival. Students could read or listen to the Aesop's fable the "Crow and the Pitcher" to reinforce the concept of how a beak functions.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Using the Beauty and the Beak book and the activities outlined in the educational guide, students use all 3 dimensions of the NGSS as they engage in the story of how science, technology, and a 3D-printed beak rescued a bald eagle. Students learn about the structure and function of the eagle beak, then engage in the Engineering is Elementary lesson to apply their understanding of the science to an engineering challenge. Students will be integrating the science practice of using models as they design a beak that can pick up objects and pull apart braided yarn. Connections to Common Core ELA and Math are addressed.

  • Instructional Supports: The book and accompanying engineering lesson included in the guide integrate the story of Beauty and how technology and science helped to rescue a bald eagle. A student notebook ( is included in the educational guide, which allows students to record their findings and reflect on their learning. Strategies for differentiation of instruction are not provided. Numerous extension activities and videos are linked throughout the educational guide, including math exploration extension activities as well as extended science and engineering exploration. Students might be encouraged to investigate further with included information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as mentioned in the back of the book.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The engineering component of this lesson was designed to assess learning progress through the use of models and explanations. Students engage in a hands-on investigation that will elicit direct, observable evidence of their learning as they document and reflect in their notebooks. This resource includes a rubric for the teacher to assess the students’ elements of success.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.