STEM: Have Seeds, Will Travel

Contributor
Kris Irwin Ph.D. Project Learning Tree
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This is one activity out of the Project Learning Tree  Pre K-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. Project Learning Tree® (PLT) is a program of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative that offers high-quality instructional materials for grades PreK-12 to increase students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. This lesson is STEM activity #43 entitled: “Have Seeds, Will Travel”. The two essential questions are: Which seed characteristics are successful adaptations for effective dispersal? and How does dispersal change from species to species? In this activity students will be exposed to the characteristics for successful reproduction in plants and explore this concept while connecting science, technology, engineering, and math strategies.

Support through professional development workshops, summer institutes, online, and curriculum material is available for a nominal fee. https://www.plt.org/trainings/

Intended Audience

Learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
When students become familiar with the multiple mechanisms of seed dispersal, they will design and test their ideas. Students will create prototypes of their designs using various material such as wood, fiber, and paper. to carry a dried beans or other seed. Students need to test their designs in various mediums such as water, air, and simulated animal fur for a desired amount of time. The students can compete for the best time floating in air and water and/or the ease of attachment to fur. The educator or students should create a rubric for criteria and constraints.

MS-LS1-4 Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.

Clarification Statement: Examples of behaviors that affect the probability of animal reproduction could include nest building to protect young from cold, herding of animals to protect young from predators, and vocalization of animals and colorful plumage to attract mates for breeding. Examples of animal behaviors that affect the probability of plant reproduction could include transferring pollen or seeds, and creating conditions for seed germination and growth. Examples of plant structures could include bright flowers attracting butterflies that transfer pollen, flower nectar and odors that attract insects that transfer pollen, and hard shells on nuts that squirrels bury.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The activity provides for several strategies to approach this performance expectation. There are questions, videos, and resource links that guide the educator and provide for background information. There is minimal guidance that allows for greater student autonomy and gives the educator the ability to extend the activity in the direction needed. The STEM strategies can be used in their entirety or used individually to enrich other lessons on seed dispersal and successful reproduction. Successful reproduction is explored in the 4-H video included, however additional research could be added to further student understanding. The following link can be used: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/103-seed-dispersal

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students will design and test their method of seed dispersal by creating prototypes of using various material such as wood, fiber, and paper. to carry a dried beans or other seed. Students need to test their designs in various mediums such as water, air, and simulated animal fur for a desired amount of time. The students can compete for the best time floating in air and water and/or the ease of attachment to fur. The educator needs to provide a rubric for criteria and constraints of their prototypes. This can be accomplished by allowing students to decide on the criteria/constraints by using a Gallery Walk to gather their ideas.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The activity included videos that show four seed dispersal methods and a separate video about the importance of and mechanisms for seed dispersal. Links to a few specific plants and their specific seed dispersal methods are included but could easily be supplemented with students own research. All the information will guide the students to construct an explanation of characteristics for successful reproduction in plants, while further exploring and extending the concept with technology, engineering, and math strategies.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This lesson does provide for the student-generated designs to model successful seed dispersal but could be strengthened by a rubric. The rubric needs to be created by the teacher or use a student-generated rubric that determines the criteria and constraints of their models.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
he lesson provides videos and reference links that specifically provide the student and educator with information on a variety of methods for seed dispersal. Students can use this information to figure out characteristics that aid in seed dispersal. A follow-up to this lesson would include what is necessary for successful germination.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The phenomena of seed dispersal are thoroughly explored with the variety of videos, links, and student additional research. The structures that allow for water, air and animal dispersal are explored according to the structures that make for successful dispersal. A “Socratic Seminar” approach will provide for a class discussion of how the structures relate to their dispersal methods, as well as a precursor for their own models. Followed by a “Gallery Walk” will allow for further assessment for understanding before their prototypes are begun.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The phenomena of seed dispersal are thoroughly explored with the variety of videos, links, and student additional research. The different methods of dispersal are used to explore the cause and effect relationships between methods and access to required nutrients for germination. The engineering and math sections of the activity provide for the analysis of student-created models of seed dispersal and this can be extended to include the probability of successful germination. This can be accomplished by student models reaching a fictitious target representing the nutrients necessary for germination.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity uses the three dimensions to explore the phenomena of seed dispersal that helps in germination and it allows the students to make sense of the phenomena by designing a method of seed dispersal that is student-led. The focus of the lesson is to support students in making sense of seed dispersal methods as they design and engineer a seed model that promotes dispersal and successful germination. The activity can be further developed by including the math/engineering challenge that includes the probability of success with the addition of a target that represents nutrients needed for germination. The addition of a rubric would strengthen this lesson by providing the criteria and constraints for the engineering component.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson has a STEM focus that engages students in authentic and meaningful scenarios that reflect those experienced in the real world. It provides opportunities for students to connect their explanation of the phenomena of seed dispersal to successful reproduction by engineering their own seed dispersal mechanism. The lesson uses scientifically accurate and grade‐appropriate scientific information and phenomena to support students’ three‐dimensional learning. Videos and research links provide instructional support. Clear learning goals, alignment to the NGSS, background information, and additional resources all support instruction. Instructional support could be strengthened by including ideas about extensions, modifications, and formative assessment and to respond to peer and teacher evaluation, and ideas about differentiated instruction. Student autonomy can be accomplished by having students create a rubric for the criteria and constraints for the engineering design prototypes. Support through professional development workshops, summer institutes, online, and curriculum material is available for a nominal fee and would be an asset for teacher support of this lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson monitors the three-dimensional student performances: by eliciting direct, observable evidence of students constructing explanations of the how different methods of seed dispersal will achieve the probability of germination. A rubric is not included, so teachers will want to consider embedding formative assessment questions throughout the lesson and also spend time listening to students as they evaluate the different methods of seed dispersal. The lesson could be improved by the addition of scaffolds that connect the student’s research to their reasoning. This can be accomplished with the Socratic Seminar technique that will allow students to compare the advantages and disadvantages of the variety of seed dispersal methods. “Project Learning Tree” support through professional development workshops, summer institutes, online, and curriculum material will also provide for more access to various assessment strategies and student support.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -