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In this lesson and its extension activities, the students should have the opportunity to discover how seeds travel from their parent plants in search of water, sunlight, and nutrients. The students will conduct experiments in which they will note characteristics which encourage seed dispersal by means of wind, water, animal carriers, and pod explosion.
ITV Series
Take A Look #3: Growing Things
Reading Rainbow #1101: The Lotus Seed
Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:
Per individual:
Per pair of students:
Squirrel Smorgasbord Activity:
Per group of 4-6 students:
Sink or Float Activity:
Blown Away Activity Per Class:

Pre-Viewing Activities
Engage students in a brief discussion about ways people travel from place to place. Guide students to include such things as planes, boats, horses, and, silly as it may seem, being shot out of a cannon. Record a student-generated list on the chalkboard or a piece of chart paper. Ask the students to pretend that they are seeds looking for a new home. How will they travel to their new home? The students should brainstorm methods in which seeds are dispersed. List student responses on the board for reference during the viewing segments. Distribute the seed packets and hand lenses. Students should examine and sort the seeds by method of dispersal.
Focus Viewing
The focus for viewing is a specific responsibility or task(s) students are responsible for during or after watching the video to focus and engage students' viewing attention. The students will view the first segment to learn three different methods of seed dispersal.

Viewing Activities
BEGIN the video Take A Look #3: Growing Things at the title screen where the maple keys are displayed. The verbal cue is "When a plant has made a seed, it can use many ways to get its seed from where they were made to where they grow a new plant."

PAUSE after the squirrel plants the acorn. The verbal cue is "...and that's how a new oak tree might start." Refer students to their predictions listed on the chalkboard. Modify the list as necessary to include dispersal by the wind (such as the maple keys, milkweed, and tumbleweed), water (like the coconut), and animal carriers (such as the burdock attaching to the animal or the animal transporting the seed for the purposes of storing or consuming). At this point, the teacher may wish to remind students that they are animals, too. Ask how people might be seed carriers. In the next segment, students will learn about seed pod explosions.

REUME and EJECT the video after the verbal cue "The touch-me-not shoots seeds far from the mother plant." Refer students to their predictions and modify to include pod explosions as a means of seed dispersal.

BEGIN the video Reading Rainbow #1101: The Lotus Seed where LeVar Burton says "Here's one of my favorites, the lotus." The students will view the segment to learn which method of dispersal the lotus seed utilizes.

STOP and EJECT the video after the verbal cue "The lotus can travel almost anywhere in the world and still grow." Discuss the method of dispersal and possible distance traveled by the lotus seed.
Post-Viewing Activities
During post-viewing activities, the students will experiment to reclassify the seeds in their packets into four methods of dispersal. They will discover that some seeds may utilize more than one method of dispersal. They should also conclude that visual examination is an inadequate sorting tool for determining which method(s) of dispersal many seeds employ. Brainstorm methods of testing a seed's ability to travel by wind, water, animal carrier, or pod explosion. Each student will complete his/her concept map to demonstrate knowledge of the four major methods of seed dispersal.

Blown Away In this activity, the students should be looking for characteristics of seeds that allow for better wind dispersal. Display an assortment of seeds, some of which are wind-dispersed from plants such as dandelions, maple trees, sycamore trees, cottonwood trees, tumbleweed, and milkweeds. Also include seeds which are not dispersed by the wind, such as acorns, beans, peanuts, peas, and walnuts. Have the students make and record predictions about which seeds will travel farthest on a windy day. Ask students to select a seed from the display. Predict and record the estimated distance of travel by each seed. Place a large fan on a counter, table, or desktop and turn it on high.

Have each student drop their seed from a position above the air current generated by the fan. Using a tape measure, assist students in measuring the distance each seed traveled from the drop point to the landing site. The students should record the distances. The students should conclude that light-weight, feather-like characteristics will increase flotation time and allow a wind-blown seed to travel much farther.

Sink or Float In this activity, the students should discover that some seeds are dispersed by floating on water. Distribute 1 large bowl of water and 1 teacher-collected seed packet to each group. Have the students examine, describe, and record their predictions about whether each seed will sink or float. Ask the students to gently place the seeds into the bowls. Record which seeds sank instantly and which floated without sinking. Ask students to observe the seeds that never sank. What characteristics caused them to float? The students should conclude that waxy coatings, feathery hairs and light-weight projections, such as wings, allow the seeds to float. The teacher should guide the students to discover how seed flotation is also caused by air bladders within the seeds.

Squirrel Smorgasbord In this activity, the students should discover that some hungry animals serve as seed dispersal agents. Squirrels often bury nuts for later use and then forget to retrieve them. This not only disperses the seed, but provides for later germination. In this activity, the students should discover which nuts squirrels prefer. Distribute packets containing equal numbers of acorns, peanuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts, and pecans to each group of students.
Action Plan
Write to a seed catalog company to learn how seeds are gathered, stored, and distributed for commercial use.

Invite a local farmer to the classroom to speak about the use of mechanical devices or equipment employed to plant, harvest, store, and transport seeds. Write to the Agriculture Education Field Advisor in your area to request information pertaining to the most commonly planted seeds in your area.

Invite a local representative for a company specializing in chemicals used by food producers to speak about the way chemicals can enhance or inhibit seed germination, and the toxicity of such chemicals.

Contact a local craft guild and invite an artist to demonstrate how he/she uses seeds in one of their creations.
Art: Have the students use a variety of seeds to make mosaics.

Art, Language Arts, and Science: Paint gumballs from sweet gum trees. Add eight pipe cleaner legs and an appropriate number of eyes to make a gumball spider. The students will need to do some research to determine the colors and number of eyes to be used on their creation. Ask each child to write a paragraph about their spider's habitat, diet, etc.

Art and Language Arts: Have the students design a seed packet for a new seed company. Ask the students to write an advertisement for their product.

Art and Science: Have the students match fruit and vegetable seeds with their parent plant to determine whether there is a correlation between the size of the seed and the size of the host. Ask the students to design and decorate a vase on a sheet of watercolor or other heavy art stock. Add stems and leaves to the vase. Use the sliced fruits and vegetables from above as flowers. Dip the fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors of tempera or acrylic paints and print them on the paper.

Art and Language Arts: Have the students pretend that they are seeds on a journey. Create and send postcards to classmates detailing the sites and adventures of your trip.

Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies: Read or view "The Lotus Seed" for the class. Distribute world maps and ask the students to chart the journey of Grandmother's lotus seed. Using calculators and the map's scale, approximate the distance that the seed traveled.

Math: Ask the students to bring in old seed catalogs or write and request new ones. Give each student a "shopping list" and a calculator. Ask them to find and record the price of each seed on their list. Use the calculator to compute the exact cost of their purchase.

Science: Have each student wear a pair of old cotton socks over their own shoes. Go for a nature hike through a field with low, dry plants. Return to the classroom. Remove the socks. Examine the seeds clinging to them. Shake the socks vigorously to see which seeds fall off first. Record the results. Gather the seeds and grow your own "Prickly Park." Record the length and dates of each seed's germination.


The type of nuts selected for this activity may be altered due to availability of nuts in your area. Have each group of students place their nuts in a location that is accessible to squirrels. Tell the students to record the number of nuts they placed outside on their "Squirrel Smorgasbord" record sheet. Ask students to record their predictions about which nuts will be carried off first and which will be carried off last. Leave the nuts outside for several days and have students periodically count the remaining nuts. The students should record their findings on the record sheets. Have students compare their results with their predictions.

Master Teachers: Kathleen Shannon, Valerie Lyle

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