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Wind blown seed design

Model seeds that are adapted for dispersion by wind. Attach tissue paper, feathers and other light materials to a foam ball. then test how far they can travel in a wind.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)
Earth/Space: Weather, Seasons, Climate Change (K, 1, 4, 7)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • foam balls
  • light materials with a large surface area e.g. tissue paper, tin foil, feathers, cotton balls
  • toothpicks and pipe cleaners, for attaching materials to the foam ball
  • scissors for cutting the pipe cleaners
  • measuring tapes, to mark how far the seed designs go
  • worksheet to record results

Best run after looking at real wind-blown seeds, with wings and parachutes.

Show students how to use the toothpicks and the pipe cleaners to attach tissue paper or spread out cotton balls to the foam ball, and show them the other materials that they will use to design wind blown seeds.
(The middle photo of the students' designs worked like a dandelion seed, righting itself with the heavier seed end always at the bottom.)

For testing whether their seed is better at being caught by the wind than the plain foam ball, they can drop them both at once and blow on them. Which is carried the furthest? They can use the measuring tape to record the distances moved by each.

Students share their results and discuss the mechanics of why some materials worked better than others. e.g. how light was the material compared to its surface area.



*Try with a paper clip or something heavy for the seed - something that falls right down even with a big puff. Our data with foam balls outside showed no pattern of designs that mimicked wind blown seeds travelling further - too many variables (students' puffs, a little outside wind).
Seed with and without mechanism should be tested side by side, to make sure they are getting the same "wind". Maybe just record which one goes further, as distances are all over the map, depending on the wind (from breath and real wind if outside).
Students grade 4/5 were often more interested in making sculptures that focusing on the seed design - focus them a bit more somehow.

Make seeds that stick to hair or clothing with short pipe cleaner pieces stuck into a foam ball. See how far they can be carried before falling off?

Grades taught: 
Gr 4
Gr 5
Heidi Ravenel
Kathryn Mazzone
Teaching site: 
Selkirk Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Selkirk Elementary