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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Plants In Autumn: How Seeds Travel

Students sort seed packages according to their dispersal methods.
Students sort seed packages according to their dispersal methods.
Diverse colors and shapes of Arboretum seed packages
Diverse colors and shapes of Arboretum seed packages

Grades 3-5

This two-hour program focuses on the fall phenomenon of seed dispersal, an important stage in the reproductive life cycle of flowering plants. It challenges students to incorporate what they already know about seeds to ponder the strategies that plants use to disperse them. Children observe the structure (form) of the seed package to look for evidence of its dispersal strategy (function).

Organized in small groups, students begin discussing what they know about seeds: What is the function of a seed? What do seeds need for germination? Why do seeds travel, and how? Through careful examination of selected seeds, students learn a variety of ways that seed packages disperse: wind, animal consumption (eat and excrete), animal transport (stick-tight and carry and bury), mechanical means, and water.

Groups spend the majority of the field study in the landscape, searching for and classifying seeds. They examine closely and describe properties of seed packages, explore the contents of packages to locate the actual seeds, determine how seeds might travel, and, if possible, test their ideas. Students are encouraged to use creative language to name seed packages they find in the landscape according to their properties.

To conclude their exploration, groups re-examine their seed collection and use sorting cards to group similar seed packages into categories for seed dispersal. This is an opportunity for students to make claims and use evidence to support their reasoning, presenting their ideas to the group and engaging in science discourse.

If you are a Boston Public School teacher and would like to register for a program, email Nancy Sableski or call 617.384.5239.

MA Science Standards correlations:

  • 3-LS1-1 Use simple graphical representations to show that different types of organisms have unique and diverse life cycles. Describe that all organisms have birth, growth, reproduction, and death in common, but there are a variety of ways in which these happen.
  • 3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular environment some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive.
  • 3-LS4-5(MA) Provide evidence to support a claim that the survival of a population is dependent upon reproduction.
  • 4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that animals and plants have internal and external structures that support their survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.