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Lesson Plans
The "Seedier" Side of Plants
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Be sure to order active seeds and any other materials needed for the Culminating Activity several weeks early to insure their delivery.

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in the classroom. CUE the video to the appropriate starting point. Make the appropriate number of copies of handouts for each student. Have students bring in an old sock. Have old white rags and rubber bands available for students who forget their socks.
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments and Web sites.

Place all materials in a designated materials station.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Instruct each student to take a sock from the materials station and carry it outside. Once all the students are outside, instruct them to place the sock over their shoes. Tell students to scuff their feet on the ground for the next five minutes.

Note to Teacher
The goal is to take students to wooded areas where there are many trees and ground litter. If this is not possible, collect a variety of ground litter including branches, leaves, and seeds for students to observe.

Step 2:

After five minutes, have the students remove their socks by pulling them inside out and placing them inside the baggie. Advise students to not remove anything from the sock. Return to the classroom.

Step 3:

Have students carefully remove the sock from the baggie onto a paper towel. Examine all the items picked up from outside. Ask the students to describe anything that was picked up. Did anyone pick up any seeds? Describe what the seeds looked like. How did they know that the item was a seed? Students can write answers on Handout #1. (The seeds have a hard outer covering. It may also have stickers or briars to attach to various things.)

Explain to students that by putting socks on their feet and walking around, they were helping the seeds move to a new location to grow. Since seeds do not have feet or ways to move on their own, they have to find unique methods to find the ideal location for growth. Explain to students that they served as a vector (a vector is a way for seeds to move about). Ask the students to name other types of vectors. (Other vectors would include water, wind, and animals such as insects, birds, and rodents.)

Step 4:

Remove one of the seeds from one of the socks and place it on the table. Ask the students if the seed can begin to grow on the table. (The students may give a variety of answers. Many students may not have any experience in growing a plant from seed and will be unfamiliar with growth requirements. The seeds need water and warmth to germinate.)

Step 5:

Have the students choose one seed from their sock. Ask students to place the seed in a new baggie with a wet paper towel. Seal the baggie and place it a warm place. Instruct students to make predictions as to how long it will take to begin growth. Have students write their predictions on paper. Is anything hindering the seed from growing? Allow students time to respond and write answers on their handout. Ask for sample answers and write them on the board. (The students may answer that there is no soil or plant food.)

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Tell students they will now explore how plants produce seeds by reviewing the parts of the plant.

Step 2:

Instruct the students to log on to the Web site On this site they can begin the tutorial lesson on the parts of the plant. Students may work in pairs or independently. If there are not enough computers for each student, the entire class can work from one computer providing there are facilities to project the screen on an overhead projector.

Step 3:

Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to answer the questions on Handout #2. Instruct them to skip the section on flowers since that is not the focus of the lesson. Once they finish the tutorial, tell the students to place the handout face down without the answers showing and complete the quiz to test their comprehension of the information. Give students approximately 15-20 minutes to complete the handout and quiz. After the students have finished, review the answers to each of the questions on Handout #2 to ensure comprehension of the information.

Note to Teacher
The quiz does not appear until the entire tutorial has been read. Once the “time” section of “Growing Plants Indoors” has been accessed, a link appears to test your knowledge about plant parts.

Step 4:

Ask the students to examine the seeds they planted from the outside activity. Are there any elements for growth missing in their setup? (Answers may include nutrients or air.)

Step 5:

Now that the students have had an opportunity to review the parts of the plant, let's look at how diverse nature is in spreading seeds about the terrain. What are some ways seeds can be moved? (Responses could include wind and water.) Tell the students that they are going to view a video that shows some of those examples along with other ways that seeds are distributed.

Insert Nature #1609: The "Seedy" Side of Plants into the VCR. FAST FORWARD the tape to the point where the screen is displaying the plains of Australia. The narrator says, "In Australia's Northern plains is concealed the most bizarre relationship: another example of how extraordinarily the seeds will travel." Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what happens to the berries before they can begin to grow. PLAY tape until you see seed grow after being removed from the ant pit. PAUSE the tape. Ask students to respond. (Emus consume quinine berries. Within 72 hours, they defecate the remains. The pits erupt, leaving the seed with an exposed nodule. Ants then drag the seed and nodule underground. They eat the nodule and drag the seed above ground, disposing of it. The seed then continues its growth to become a plant.)

Ask student why they suppose the quinine berries had to go through so many stages in order for the seeds to grow. (To overcome drought and fires of the terrain.) Students have seen how the quinine used its berries' color to attract emus; now have them watch for how the cashew fruit attracts monkeys.

Step 6:

FAST FORWARD tape to the point where the monkeys are roaring on the screen. The narrator says, "Animals are clearly a mixed blessing." Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them what the purpose of the fruit is for the seeds? How does the animal know the cashew nut is ready for consumption? PLAY tape until the monkeys drop the fruit. PAUSE the tape. Ask students to respond. (Fruit is a bribe to attract the right animals and manipulate their behavior; it is ready when the fruit ripens to a yellow color.) Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them if it is better for the cashew to be eaten in the trees or away from the tree. Why or why not? Why do the monkeys not eat the seed? RESUME tape until you see the monkey drop the half-eaten fruit and seed. Ask students to respond. (Monkeys that are less aggressive move away from the original site of the fruit. This is a good thing for the seed because the monkeys will drop the seed in a new location after eating the fruit. The seed is not eaten due to its poisonous nature.) Students have now observed two ways in which seeds are dispersed in nature; next have them watch for some more conventional ways that seeds find new homes.

Step 7:

FAST FORWARD tape to the screen where the dandelion is opening up to display all its seeds. The narrator says, "No elaborate advertising here, just a thorough understanding of aerodynamics." PAUSE the tape. In this picture, there are many dandelion seeds. Ask students if all these seeds will mature into new plants. Why or why not? Allow students to respond. (The dandelion produces so many seeds because there is a great chance that many will not survive.) Ask students if they think that is the only reason, but do not let them respond yet. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen for one benefit and one disadvantage of these seed types. PLAY tape until the screen displays the whirlybird falling to the ground. STOP the tape. Allow the students to respond. (One benefit of producing so many seeds is to ensure future generations of the same plant. Seeds are light and airy to allow the wind to carry them to new locations. One disadvantage would be that because they are very small, limited endosperm is carried in the seed, thereby narrowing their chances of survival.) REVIEW with the class the seed dispersal methods shown in the video. (The methods include water, wind, and a combination of various animals.)

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

Instruct students to bring the plastic baggies with the seedlings they planted earlier in the lesson back to the table.

Note to Teacher
Ideally this lesson will take at least 3 days to allow the plants to sprout. You may need to plant the seeds ahead of time for the students or have them do it, then come back later to this portion of the lesson.

Step 2:

Instruct students to use their hand lens to observe the following parts of the plant: root, stem, leaves, and cotyledon(s). Monitor and assist as students are finding the parts. If some students finish early, allow them to be peer teachers for other students. Allow students to observe other students' seedlings.

Step 3:

Instruct students to write down answers to the questions and their observations on Handout #3. Ask students for their responses after it seems most have completed their observations. What are some common observations they have made about the seedlings? (Sample responses might include sprouts coming out from one end of the seed, no sprout, the sprout is mostly green, the root grows downward, the seed cover is peeling away, and the towel is becoming dry. Depending on conditions of growth, answers will vary.)

Step 4:

Divide students into teams of four. Provide each team with the following materials: deep container or pot, various seeds, soil, and a cup of water. Since they have observed a variety of seeds and growth patterns in seeds, each team will have the opportunity to grow their own group of seeds in the form of a theme.

Set labeled seed containers out in such a way that students will see what seeds are available to plant. Have the students map out what they would like to plant on Handout #4. Once they have completed this portion of the handout, each team to should have the teacher pre-approve the idea. The idea is to create an arrangement of plants based on a theme of some sort. After having the idea approved, briefly review with the students how to plant seeds: no more than one-third length of their index finger (or 1-2 cm). Planting too deep would not allow for the stem and roots to properly grow. Continue following directions on Handout #4. Some helpful Web sites are listed under Media Components at the beginning of this lesson.

Possible Plant Themes

  • Seeds that produce plants with colored flowers
  • Vegetables containing seeds
  • Vegetables lacking seeds
  • Seeds grouped by size
  • Seeds grouped by shape

Step 5:

Since the project will take some time to completely grow, students can use this time to decide how they will complete the final presentation or project idea.

Step 6:

After approximately 7-10 days, each team will display their arrangement to the class. They will also present the theme they based their arrangement upon and any significant observations they have made. Some teams may want to continue to allow their plants to grow to fully display their theme (i.e. the theme is all vegetables or all one color of flowers, etc.)

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Have the students predict and draw what their seed garden may look like after it has fully grown. The artwork could be done in pastel or pencil.

Students can read a variety of books such as:
The Tiny Seed. Eric Carle
A Weed is a Seed. Freida Wolff
From Seed to Plant. Gail Gibbons
Flowers, Fruits, Seeds. Jerome Wexler
The Giving Tree. Shel Silverstein
Sunflower. Miela Ford
The Popcorn Book. Tomie DiPaola
The Mountain that Loved a Bird. Alice McLerran
Titch. Pat Hutchins
Will Spring Be Early? Or Will Spring Be Late? Crocket Johnson
First Comes Spring. Anne Rockwell
Round Robin. Jack Kent
Anna in the Garden. Diane Hearn
The Green Man. Gail Haley
The Pea Patch Jig. Thatcher Hurd
Sunflower House. Eve Bunting
Planting a Rainbow. Lois Ehlert
The Carrot Seed. Ruth Kraus
The Flower Alphabet Book. Jerry Pallota

Students can fill in a Genre Studies Chart. The chart could include topics for which the students could fill in information based on the book they choose to read. Sample topics for the teacher to draw out on butcher paper or poster board might include:
1. Fiction/Non-Fiction story
2. General theme of the story
3. Type of plant(s) featured in the story
4. Actions of the plant (roots growing, stem growing, seeds moving, etc.)
5. Colors of plants
6. Does man influence the growth of the seeds? How?

Students can create several activities using all the plant and seed words they have learned. Such activities might include a spelling bee, crossword puzzle, or other word puzzles.

Students can create a Seed Wordbook by folding several pieces of writing paper in half and stapling it.

Students can create stories based on the words found in this unit. From this, the class can create a class book. Choose several children to illustrate the cover and back page.

Discuss how popcorn seeds are able to burst open and form an edible food. Microwave several bags and have the students count the unpopped kernels. What would cause the unpopped seeds not to open? Research the Web sites. (Popcorn contains water inside the kernel. When it is microwaved, the water heats up and causes the shell to burst, thus opening the popcorn into an edible form. If there is very little water, the kernel does not open.)

Research the importance of several geneticists creating new seed types. This could include Burpee, Thomas Morgan, and Gregor Mendel. Have the students include drawings the types of seeds hybridized by these scientists.

Community Connections
  • Have students research common plants of their neighborhood. They can either make a dried plant display or leaf collection, then draw the seed that is associated with the plant.

  • Students can contact the local or state agricultural extension for information on how pollution is affecting the area and the plant population. Research what plants are slowly being eliminated from the area due to construction and man-made environmental changes.

  • Students can refer to their local museums and botanical gardens for various plant and seed types. The American Museum of Natural History has an entire wing dedicated to plant life.