Seed Dispersal Teaching Ideas

Nyárfák (Populus sp.) English: Unidentified po...
Poplar tree shedding seeds in the wind (photo credit: Wikipedia).
A burr. This fruit attatches to animal fur via...
A burr. Those tiny little hooks allow it to attach itself to animal fur and people’s clothing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a whole collection of ideas to incorporate into a lesson on seed dispersal.  Students will predict and then test seeds to see how they could disperse.  Additionally, students could watch a video on dispersal, play an online game, and have a choice of a wide range of projects to illustrate their mastery of seed dispersal..

  • Take the class on a walk to a field.  Take off shoes and walk through the field in socks.  At the end of the walk, examine socks to find out what hitchhiker seeds are attached to students’ socks (be sure to scout the area first for any sharp objects or poison ivy!)
  • Break up students into groups or pairs to explore some seeds and predict how they will travel.  Then, perform tests on the seeds to find out the actual methods of seed dispersal.  Students love this hands-on exploration of seed dispersal!

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  • Start a classroom discussion on the purpose of  seed dispersal with the prompt: “Imagine a world without seed dispersal.”
  • Tell students they are all squirrels.  Hand each student a grape (tell them to pretend it is an acorn) and tell them to hide the grape somewhere within a specific area (you probably want to do this outdoors!).  After an hour of other activities, tell students to find the grape they hid.  Give them five minutes to search and some students will not be able to find the grapes they hid.  Ask students why this might help plants, if squirrels lose some of their acorns?
  • Hold relay races with students blowing into straws and to keep dandelion or poplar seeds airborne.
  • You may want to show some portions of this video on seed dispersal, narrated by David Attenborough.
  • Have students watch this video about the life cycle of a seed and its travels.  Students could create their own narration to the video or fill out a worksheet to describe the life cycle or the travels of the seed.
  • Check out the Seedy Characters activities website, in which students need to predict how new and unfamiliar seeds would disperse based on pictures in the game.
  • For further extensions:
    • Design and build a new seed with a new method of seed dispersal
    • Write a story, create a comic strip, or make a poster about the adventures of a seed as it travels away from its original plant
    • Create a booklet which shows different ways wind, water, animals, humans, and seed shapes can contribute to seed dispersal.
  • For a followup lesson, you may want to consider checking out Why Does a Tomato Have So Many Seeds?

You may also be interested in these lesson ideas on seed dissection or germination.

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  2. Great practical ideas for teaching seed dispersal. i have added a link to this article on my website at Newtonsapple.org.uk

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    1. Thanks for the link, Steve! I love both of your articles on seed dispersal, and they would be great teachers to use when creating a web quest!

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