A Deeper Look Into Seeds

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Biology In Elementary Schools is a Saint Michael's College student project from a course that ran between 2007 and 2010. The student-created resources have been preserved here for posterity. Link under 'toolbox' for printer-friendly versions of the exercises. Click on handouts to print full resolution versions. Please see Wikieducator's disclaimer, our safety statement, and the Creative Commons licensing in English and in legalese.

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A Deeper Look Into Seeds

Student worthiness

Tried and Trusted.

Primary biological content area covered

Students will:

  • use their sense of touch and sight to discover differences between several types of seeds
  • discuss why seeds come in different shapes and sizes
  • make connections between art and science
  • discuss the growth process of a seed
  • discuss how different seeds are used in different products


  • A Seed Is Sleeping, by Dianna Hutts Aston
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Banana or plantain (plantains have bigger seeds)
  • 4 Bowls
  • 1 Coconut
  • Crayons/Pencils
  • 1 Cucumber
  • Glue (Elmers)
  • 30 Handouts (Figure 1.)
  • 1 Lemon Slice
  • 1 Peach
  • 1 Peach Pit
  • 1 Cutting Board & Knife
  • 1 Pomegranate
  • Rice (enough to glue one on each student's worksheet)
  • 4 Shadow Boxes
  • Sunflower Seeds (enough to glue one on each student's worksheet)
  • 1 Tomato
This lesson may foster mold growth. Mold spores cause allergic reactions and so the container should remain sealed prior to disposal.


Figure 1-
Click to see the full-size handout

Students will each be given one handout (Figure 1.) on which they will draw the 4 seeds in the shadow boxes. They will then glue each type seed (minus the peach pit, its hard to get multiple peach pits so feel free to use a seed you can get in multiples) next to the appropriate corresponding picture they have drawn.

Description of activity

Students will use their sense of touch to draw different seeds that they feel inside 4 different shadow boxes. Then they will be discussing the differences and similarities between the various seeds. They will then have the opportunity to see each of the seeds. They will also be able to see that they can find seeds every day in the fruits and vegetables that they eat. The growth process of a seed will also be explained.

Lesson plan

Shadow Box Activity

10 Minutes

  • Choose four different types of seeds. In our activity we have chosen a peach pit, rice, lima beans, and sunflower seeds. Place each seed type in the shadow boxes. Number the boxes 1 through 4.
  • Allow for a display of each seed in front of the shadowboxes so that the students may visualize the type of seed that he/she is feeling during this activity.
  • Since the students are to be split into groups of 4 or 5, each student will be stationed at one shadowbox. They will be given the shadow box worksheet (Figure 1.) and will write their names on the paper, as well as number each big box 1 through 4. Once they are given their directions the students are to place their non-dominant hand into their designated shadowbox and use their sense of touch to imagine the seed they are feeling inside the box (point out the displayed seeds to the students to assist them).
  • Simultaneously, with their dominant writing hand, each student is to draw on a piece of paper, in the corresponding box number (Figure 1.) what he/she believes the seed in their box may appear to be based on their sense of touch. If they wish, students may also write descriptive words next to their drawings, such as "big, small, bumpy, smooth, etc."
  • Once the students have completed this process, allow them to repeat these steps until each student has visited each of the shadow boxes. (Allow no more than 1 1/2 minutes per box - the drawings do not have to be perfect, this activity is for fun).
  • When the students are back to their original shadow box you may have them open each box and compare their drawings to the seeds they felt inside the box. Discuss how similar their drawings are to the real seeds and why they may have perceived a seed to appear the way that they drew it.
  • Next, glue one example of each seed next to the student's corresponding drawing.

Cutting Fruit Activity

5 Minutes

  • Discuss how different plants grow from different seeds and talk about the many ways a plant can grow. Using a visual aid, discuss germination and plant growth.
  • Show the students the different types of seeds from the many fruits that they eat daily, by cutting open each fruit (note that this may be done in advance to save time). In our activity we have chosen some exotic fruits as well, such as a pomegranate.

Potential pitfalls

  • We have chosen to use a peach pit, rice, lima beans, and sunflower seeds in the shadow boxes. Teachers may choose whichever seeds they like, but it is important to remember to choose a variety of seeds with many differences. There are many seeds with similar characteristics and it would be very difficult for students to draw and determine differences without being able to see them.
  • When you grow the seeds for the students to see in the glass jars there is a possibility that the seeds will not grow. For our experiment the green bean and the sunflower seeds grew beautifully however our lima bean did not grow. Try to avoid using old seeds.
  • Be sure to bring all the materials you need when traveling! We forgot our shadowboxes once, however we rolled with it. Just make sure there's a smooth transition and stay calm, the students will have fun anyway.
  • At times the activity did feel rushed. The times for each part were different with every group of students. It may be a good idea to only use one part at a time in a classroom rather than trying to do it all together.

Math connections

A math component could be included in this activity. Students can measure seeds to determine differences in size between various types of seeds. They can also use the seeds as a counting tool or for an estimation activity. Teachers can also use the picture book Anno's Magic Seeds, by Mitsumasa Anno. This book offers a math themed take on Jack and the Bean Stalk, focusing on the magic seeds. Students can also plant seeds and measure/graph their growth over time.

Literature connections

Teachers should have A Seed Is Sleeping, by Dianna Hutts Aston on hand so that the students can look at the pictures of different types of seeds. They may also want to read this book before the lesson begins. The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle is another great book that can be used along with this lesson. It shows the growth process from seed to a plant.

  • Anno, Mitsumasa, 1999. Anno's Magic Seeds, Putnam Juvenile
  • Hutts, Dianna, 2007. A Seed Is Sleeping, Chronicle Books
  • Carl, Eric, 2001. The Tiny Seed, Aladdin

Connections to educational standards

  • 7.1.b. Use reliable information obtained from scientific knowledge, observation, and exploration

  • S1-2:1 Students demonstrate their understanding of SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONING by…
    • Posing observational questions that compare things in terms of number, shape, texture, size, weight, color, motion, etc.

  • A1-2:16 Students make connections between/among the arts and disciplines outside the arts by…
    • Communicating ideas, concepts, feelings from other disciplines

Next steps

-As previously mentioned, this lesson could easily be extended to include more math and literature connections and activities

-Students can further explore seeds and the fruits/vegetables that they come from by looking at them under a microscope, or by using their other senses of taste and smell

-This lesson can dovetail with the lesson "Exploring Food with Senses"


  • The shadow box portion of this lesson was a lot of fun, the students definitely seemed to enjoy it. It was incredible how good at guessing these students are! When we started the activity the initial expectation was for the students to simply draw a picture of what they felt inside the shadow boxes. Rather, they added on to what we expected by writing description words about each seed as well. This proved to be very helpful in that it provided the students with more information about each seed and therefore helped them to make better, more informed guesses. It was incredible to see how much fun they had guessing what the seeds were.
  • When running this experiment a second time, we forgot to bring shadow boxes. This was interesting because it was a pretty smooth transition all together. The students never knew that we forgot them nor would they have been able to tell the difference. Instead, we used red, plastic cups and had the students reach inside the cup with their eyes closed to feel each seed. This is a useful tip for teachers who are going to use this experiment in the future who do not have time to make shadow boxes.
  • Having all different kinds of fruit made the activity a lot more fun as well. We brought in fruit that was familiar to the students as well as fruit they had never seen before. This gave the students a chance to learn about new fruits that they could maybe try. The coconut was a favorite and the students found it interesting to learn that the entire coconut was a seed. Every fruit has different seeds and by having a variety the students were able to recognize many similarities and differences between them.
  • The great thing about this activity is that each part of the lesson can be used separately. If there is limited time it may be a good idea to run the different parts separately. The activity takes about thirty minutes to complete without rushing through each part.