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Activity

Seed dispersion modelling

Summary: 
Model seeds that are adapted for dispersion by wind or animals.
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)
Materials: 
  • foam balls
  • light materials with a large surface area e.g. tissue paper, feathers
  • materials that can grab onto hair and clothing e.g. velcro hooks, pipe cleaner pieces
Procedure: 

Students will model two ways that plants disperse their seeds - by wind or by being caught on animal fur.
Starting with the foam ball, they can attach the other materials to make a seed that is adapted for the different dispersal methods.

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?
For testing whether their constructed seed is better at being carried along by animal fur than the plain foam ball, they can see which gets stuck in their hair or on their clothing.

Students share their results and discuss the mechanics of why some materials worked better than others.
Ideally show students some real seeds: the wind blow ones are light and have a large surface area that can catch the wind. The seeds that get carried by animals have tiny hooks on them (use magnifiers?)
Extend discussion to other strategies for seed dispersal: water, expulsion.

From http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/NeedForSeed.pdf

Teaching site: 
At home (only noted before doing in a classroom)