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Can You Make a Bead Fly?

In this actvity, students observe how seeds might be dispersed by wind.

Plant seeds are usually transported by animals, wind or water.

Plants that produce seeds to be easily dispersed by wind, often produce a lot of seeds to ensure that some seeds are blown to areas where they can germinate.

Seeds that are dispersed by wind tend to be small and have wings or other hair-like or feather-like structures.

Objectives

  • Observe how seeds might be dispersed by wind.

Materials

  • Per Group or Student:
    adjustable electric fan, with paper tube wrapped around head, extending about 10cm.
    light wooden beads, 15mm–20mm in size
    pipe cleaners cut to 3 inches in length
    various light fabrics cut into 5 inch squares, i.e. parachute material, light nylon, chiffon, gauze or tulle

Key Questions

  • What makes the ‘seed’ fly? (We added mass to the ‘seed.’)
  • Why did it fly?
  • What could you change to make the ‘seed’ more successful?

What To Do

  1. Present the students with a bead. Will it fly? What if the electric fan was turned on?
  2. Separate students into groups. Distribute beads and pipe cleaners.  Each group receives a selection of fabrics. Have students alter the beads with the materials available to make a flying bead.
  3. Have students test out their modifications by dropping the bead in front of the rotating fan.

Extensions

  • Relate this activity to the mechanics of seed dispersal.
  • Explore a local garden or park and have students observe the plants, to see if the students can identify how the plant seeds might be dispersed.

Other Resources

Science World Resources | Pouvez-vous faire envoler une bille? | French version of this resource