Fall is just around the corner.
Yesterday I was out on one of our favorite golf courses in upstate New York with my husband. I was easily distracted by the beauty around us. The trees were just starting to turn colors, and the thistles and cattails were bursting open. Their seeds were starting to drift through the crisp air. Soon, the milkweed pods that the Monarchs were flying around will pop open. I started to take lots of photographs!
Seed dispersal time!
One of my students’ favorite autumn activities is to go outside and hunt for seeds on the school grounds and/or at home. Before heading outside, I show them the STEMbite video: Seed Dispersal.
This engaging video is just over two minutes long and gives students a good idea of why seeds need to be dispersed. It hits on dispersal by wind and by animals (birds and humans). It’s a good idea to mention that seeds can be dispersed by water and bursting.
Next, I pass out a variety of seeds to small groups. I ask them to discuss how they think each seed is dispersed. Here is a list of suggestions: apple seeds, avocado seeds, peach pits, marigold seeds, acorns, and pinecones. Most students don’t know that pinecones house and shelter seeds, and when it gets cool outside the cones burst open to release the seeds. Consequently, this makes a good talking point.
Time to head outdoors!
I arm my students with magnifying glasses, clipboards, pencils, and recording sheets. They work with a partner to find different seeds. They take a closer look at seeds with their hand lenses. After that, students draw a detailed picture of each seed they find and then discuss how they think it was scattered and why. While they are working, I circulate among the students asking probing questions. We often find burdock. What do the students think the barbs do?
If you can’t take your class outside, set a different type of seed on each desk or table. After that, instruct students to rotate from desk to desk. Similarly, they draw pictures of the seeds and record how they think each seed was dispersed.
If you have more time to study seeds, there are a variety of activities that incorporate other school subjects.
Students choose a seed to research on the computer or using library books. They draw each stage of the plant’s life cycle (seed, seedling, young plant, and adult). Then, students write a description of what happens in each stage.
Set up a fan in your classroom. Students place one seed at a time in front of the fan. Next, they predict how far the wind will carry the seed. Turn the fan on and measure how far each seed travels.
One great STEM project is to have students create an animal out of recycled materials and give it a method to disperse seeds. Use velcro, tape or any other means of attaching seeds to the animals they create.
Here’s what one third-grader exclaimed after studying seed dispersal;
“I’m getting very interested in seeds. I never knew about them before. Seeds are everywhere!”
Share the beauty!