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Seed Dispersal

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Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
Main Image
Earth & Environmental Science Volunteer Activities
Activity Language
Time Needed for Activity

Students examine seeds, make predictions on how they disperse and create a simple seed carrier that flies like a maple key.

What You Need

Materials if being dropped off at a school:

  • Paper with the seed carrier template already cut out
  • Paperclips, 5 or 6 per student (these are the seeds)
  • 4 or 5 different seeds that disperse in different ways - have a large mix of large and small seeds (e.g., a dandelion seed, milkweed seed, maple key, and a pumpkin seed in a small paper envelope for each student. There should also be bag of cones (pine cones) and a bag of burrs that has enough for each student/group).

Materials if NOT being dropped off at a school:

  • Paper with the seed carrier template on it. An adult may need to cut it out.
  • Paper clips, small rocks or dried beans.
  • Seeds collected from outside or inside (e.g., seeds eaten by animals and pooped out, from a fruit like an avocado or apple; dispersed by wind - maple key, dandelion seed, milkweed; stuck on animals - burrs (wrapped in a small piece of felt); open with fire (some cones)).

Guide:

Safety Notes

As a Let’s Talk Science volunteer, safety must be foremost in our minds during all activities. As STEM role models, volunteers must always also model safe science practices.

Always keep in mind the following precautions: 

  • Emphasize and demonstrate appropriate safety procedures throughout the presentation.
  • Be professional but have fun.
  • Keep workspaces clean to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Allergens should have been checked before reserving the kit (e.g. allergies to latex).
  • Activity Specific Safety: if there are burrs in the seeds, ask students to be careful touching the burr because it is pointy and sharp a bit

What To Do

  1. Ask the teacher to hand out a seed carrier template and one paper clip to each student. Walk through each step with the students, showing them how to do this on their screen. 
  2. The top part of the seed carrier is the part that has two flaps. Fold in one side on the bottom part of the seed carrier.
  3. Fold in the other side on the bottom. 
  4. Show students how to put a paper clip on their paper to hold it together. The paper clip is now their seed. 
  5. Now we need to make the part that will help the seed disperse (fly in the wind). Fold one of the flaps at the top of the template along the solid line towards you. 
  6. Turn the template over and fold the second flap along the solid line toward you so the flaps go in different directions.
  7. Throw your seed carrier into the air.  

Discovery

Investigate Further

If students are keen on the seed carrier experiment, you can get them to test how many seeds the carrier can hold until it will no longer fly. The students can add paperclips one by one until the carrier no longer flies. Get them to make a prediction on how many seeds it can hold.

Investigate Further

If students are keen on the seed carrier experiment, you can get them to test how many seeds the carrier can hold until it will no longer fly. The students can add paperclips one by one until the carrier no longer flies. Get them to make a prediction on how many seeds it can hold.

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