This is an activity appropriate for young students. A silhouette of a child and a seedling are presented on the same scale. Prompts on how each takes in nutrients are provided, and placed by participants around the appropriate silhouette. Some statements are appropriate for both, so are placed in the middle. Younger students will need assistance in reading the prompts. Early readers may use it as an opportunity to practice reading.
For mobility and ease of storage, the silhouettes may be sewn with felt. The prompts may then be mounted on matte board, with small pieces of Velcro attached to the back. This allows the pieces to be attached easily and moved around.
Give off moisture
I absorb nutrients through my roots
I absorb sunlight through my leaves
I absorb sunlight through my skin
I absorb nutrients from the environment right around me
Seeds provide a thought-provoking platform to explore metaphor, which in turn can provide insight into the importance of seeds. Older students may explore ideas like diversity and migration on a platform of poetry. Younger children benefit from prompts offered by objects they may handle to aid in a conversation about seeds.
The materials used in this activity are flexible and should be chosen to stimulate conversation about the different quality of seeds. Written prompts complement related objects and are housed in a small ‘treasure chest’ or suitcase.
Seeds of commonly available fruits and vegetables are matched with the appropriate fresh produce. An expanded version may include images of the plants growing in the garden and/or seed packets. Seeds may be kept in sectioned boxes or small jars. Vegetables may be festively displayed as arrangements. Students may make labeled grids to guess at which seed came from which fruit. Alternately, they may be lined up with small bowls or labeled cards in front of each.
Good examples for fruit include apple, peach, plum, cherry, citrus, tomato, avocado and mango. Vegetables may include lettuce, carrot, pepper, pumpkin, onion, corn, beans, peas, beets and radish. Mustard seed can be paired with a mustard bottle. This activity incorporates touch through handling the seeds when assigning them to the fresh produce. Taste may also be integrated by sharing the produce as a snack after the activity.
The SEED Sensorium is a multi-sensorial exploration of seeds. Bridging art and science, this series of activities engage the senses in learning about the remarkable world of seeds and their utmost importance in our lives. The activities draw inspiration from the Emilia Reggio philosophy of education which promotes student led, experiential education as the most engaging way to cultivate understanding of the world around us. Participants are encouraged to look through the lens of the seed to explore connections between art and science and their personal connections to the natural world.
Touch me seeds
The breadth of seed forms offer an opportunity to explore the amazing range of seeds. Simply putting together a collection of oddly shaped seeds allow us to explore the incredibly range of textures. Containers of smaller seeds with a range of densities offer an opportunity to immerse our fingers to feel the quality of a mass of seed. Presenting whole seed heads give us a sense of structure.
When vessels are filled with different kinds of seeds, participants may get a good sense of seed density as different seeds make significantly different qualities of sound. The listening station may include seed pods that make sounds as well as traditional rattles made from decorated gourds filled with seeds. Additionally, a series of rattles can be made from repurposed plastic water bottles covered with festive fabrics. Simply glue the fabric around the plastic bottle, leaving a small window at the top of the bottle in order to view the type of seed inside. Cover the fabric with a coat of matte gel medium to protect it and further secure the covering.
The sense of smell may be presented by placing seeds in small glass mason jars with screens screwed to the top. This way, the tops can be easily replaced and they may be stored in a way that the various smells do not intermingle. Culinary spices make perfect smells, as do carrot seeds, radish and coconut.
The taste station can include a wide range of possibility of exploring how seeds are essential to human survival.
Seeds may be tasted directly with popcorn, nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and culinary spices like cloves, nutmeg or fennel. Cooked whole seeds include millet, rice and beans.
The heirloom preservation portion of the SEED Library offers the opportunity for community members to grow out local varieties of edible plants, while farm to table events featuring seed based recipes completes the cycle around a shared table.
Tracing pizza ingredients back to seed sources
Since all our food essentially comes from seeds, another interesting activity is to trace back the ingredients in pizza, a food with multiple ingredient combinations that is immensely popular with kids. The crust is made from flour, which comes from wheat seed, and vegetables are easily traced back to the seeds from which they grow. Cheese can be traced to milk from a cow who eats grass, which in turn grows from seed.
Seeds leave their parent plant in five ways. Some seeds can be dispersed in more than one way!
The conceptual foundation of SEED was inspired by the book, Seeds: time capsules of life by Wolfgang Stuppy & Rob Kesseler. They focus on the ways rooted plants express mobility, “All seeds have the same purpose — to travel through time and space until they reach the right place at the right moment to create a new plant.” This activity provides an opportunity to test the dispersal methods of seeds in the classroom by setting up testing grounds that mimic the natural environment. There are five ways that seeds disperse & some seeds disperse in more than one way. The prompts below are set up with testing stations: a small fan for wind dispersal, a basin of water to see if seeds float and an earthen bowl for gravity dispersal. For animal dispersal, a piece of wool can be set up to test grip and representations of birds or bears to suggest dispersal through digestion. In the autumn, it is possible to harvest berries and mimic bird digestion in plastic ziplock bags to prepare seeds for sowing while still fresh. Ballistic dispersal may be represented on a small mobile device showing a film clip of an exploding cucumber.
The kind of seeds that are dispersed by wind are often smaller seeds that have wings or other hair-like or feather-like structures. Plants that produce wind blown seeds, like the dandelion or milkweed, often produce lots of seeds to ensure that some of the seeds are blown to areas where the seeds can germinate. Seeds with a honeycomb structure are very light and have increased surface area, making them ideal for being picked up and scattered by the wind.
Animals disperse seeds in several ways. First, some plants like the burr, have barbs or other structures that get tangled in animal fur or feathers, and are then carried to new sites. Other plants produce their seeds inside fleshy fruits that then get eaten by an animal. The fruit is digested by the animal, but the seeds pass through the digestive tract, and are dropped in other locations. Some animals bury seeds, like squirrels with acorns, to save for later, but may not return to get the seed. It can grow into a new plant.
People are animals too! We plant seeds intentionally in our gardens. We also pick them up accidentally on our clothes, shoes, automobiles, airpanes and boats. When we eat seeds, we relocate them through our digestive tract. . . just like other animals.
Gravity is a simple way for plants to disperse their seeds. The effect of gravity on heavier fruits and nuts causes them to fall from the plant when ripe plants that use this kind of dispersal include apples, coconuts and passion fruit. Those with harder shells, like almonds or coconuts often roll away from the plant to gain further distance. Gravity dispersal can also be followed by water or animal dispersal.
The seeds that use water as a method of dispersal are usually quite light, buoyant, and some have hairs or fluff that allow them so stay afloat. Many of these types of seeds are protected by water proof coverings so they can float for long periods of time. The coconut is a great example of a seed that uses water dispersal; it can be transported by ocean currents to completely different continents!
Self-dispersal, or autochory, is the explosive discharge of seeds from the fruit. The seeds are typically squirted from the fruit tissue by first being squeezed, then released. Often the fruits are shaped so that seeds are flung away from the parent plant as with “Touch me nots” and exploding cucumbers.
An alternative to this activity may be performed in the field using indigenous plants that would augment the existing plant community found on site. In this case, it is very important to make sure the seeds being tested belong in the place they are being tested!