Winging It: Up in the Air

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Have you ever imagined having wings and taking flight? How do wings work? How does the shape and structure of a wing help a bird soar?  Head outside and watch birds wing it!

LEAPS’ student with a birds’  perspective  /  Osprey in flight 

Learn: Although when we stretch our arms we take up lots of space, it’s hard to imagine how big large birds’ wingspans are. An osprey’s wingspan can be close to 6 feet across. Have you ever seen one in flight?  Ospreys’ wings are strong enough to give the birds extra lift to fly up and out of the water with a heavy fish.


Bird wings (with their hollow bones) made mostly of feathers are super light. Their shape, curved on the top and flat underneath, helps the air to pass faster above it than below. The difference in air speed creates pressure from underneath the wing and gives the bird lift. (Planes get lift the same way.)

How does a bird move around up there? Flapping pushes the air down so that the bird can move upward. The tilt on the top of the wing pushes the air back so the bird can go forward. The smaller the wings are, the easier they are to flap. Small birds like sparrows use fast bursts to fly. Large birds take longer to get up in the air, flap more slowly, and glide whenever they can.

Winging it:  Day 2  Create an Imaginary Bird’s Wing                                                                                                                         It’s your design, so wing it!

Mindset:  Expansive.

Materials:  Paper bag or cardboard. Pencil, scissors and glue. Natural or recycled collage making materials. Crayons or markers.

º Check out these different wing shapes. Do they help you imagine an original wing?

º Find a paper bag or piece of cardboard and cut out a long rectangular shaped piece.  Draw one wing on it, and cut it out. You can always trace it to make another.

º Here are a few suggestions for making art on your wing.

∆ Invent your own pattern. Use a fanciful design you create and repeat it many times on your wing in color.

∆ Find some bark, break it into small pieces and glue them onto your wing to make your design.

∆ Cover your wing with overlapping shapes that fit together like shingles on a roof. Glue them on.

LEAPS’ Kids’ Art: We are thrilled to share photos of student artwork and journals. LEAPS’ fifth graders at South School made these. Congratulations, Johnathan, Josh B., and Cameron on your extraordinary creations. Thank you, Mrs. McNichol for sending photos.

thumbnail_Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 1.55.49 PM

Experiment: Aeronautical engineers design and test theories for future wings and aircraft. You can too. Make this paper Ring Wing Glider, posted by NASA. It’s one more wing idea to explore!

Ring Wing Glider

Happy flying!

Nancy, for the LEAPS’ Team

Wood collagraph plate pictured at the top of this blog post, created by South School fifth grader  /  fall 2019
© Nancy Harris Frohlich 2020


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