ALEX Lesson Plan


Hitching a Ride

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kathy Perkins
System: Tuscaloosa City
School: Tuscaloosa City Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34803


Hitching a Ride


How can a tree grow in the middle of a field if no one planted it there?  In this lesson, students will work to find out the answer to this question by learning how seeds are dispersed.  Students will observe different types of seeds and see how they sometimes "hitch a ride" in or on animals to travel great distances.  Finally, they will use the engineering design process to make models of animals that help disperse seeds.  

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 2
6 ) Design and construct models to simulate how animals disperse seeds or pollinate plants (e.g., animals brushing fur against seed pods and seeds falling off in other areas, birds and bees extracting nectar from flowers and transferring pollen from one plant to another).*

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L4.3: Organisms interact and are interdependent in various ways, including providing food and shelter to one another. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs are met. Some interactions are beneficial; others are detrimental to the organism and other organisms.

NAEP Statement::
L4.7: Different kinds of organisms have characteristics that enable them to survive in different environments. Individuals of the same kind differ in their characteristics, and sometimes the differences give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Develop a simple model that simulates the function of an animal in seed dispersal or pollination of plants.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Model
  • Design
  • Construct
  • Explain
  • Simulate
  • Disperse
  • Pollen
  • Pollinate
  • Mimic
  • Structure
  • Function
  • Transfer
  • Extract
  • Ask
  • Imagine
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Improve
  • Engineering Design Process
Students know:
  • The structure of a plant.
  • The relevant structures of the animal.
  • The process of plant pollination.
  • The relationship between components of their model that allow for movement of pollen or seeds.
  • Relationships between the parts of the model they are developing and the parts of the animal they are simulating.
Students are able to:
  • Develop and use a simple model to simulate how animals disperse seeds.
  • Develop and use a simple model to simulate how animals pollinate plants.
Students understand that:
  • The shape and structure of plants and animals are designed to interact with their environment and function to disperse seeds or pollinate plants.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Plants and Bugs
Plant Growth and Development, STC
The Best of Bugs: Designing Hand Pollinators, EiE

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.2.6- Recognize that most plants produce seeds and the seeds can be transferred by animals to cause new plants to be planted in other areas.

Local/National Standards:

NGSS: 2-LS2-2. Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.*

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will design and construct a model of an animal or an animal structure to simulate how animals disperse seeds.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will draw conclusions based on evidence.

Students will present findings to the class based on their experiences.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  • Large sheets of paper for group work (one for each 4 students)
  • Markers
  • Chart paper or marker board
  • Hand lens (one for each pair of students)
  • 6 paper plates
  • 6 bowls of water
  • 6 different types of seeds (acorns, maple seeds, nuts in shells, fruit seeds, flower seeds, vegetable seeds, a whole coconut, prickly seeds from a sweetgum tree, dandelion seeds, etc.)  The greater the variety of seeds, the more meaningful this lesson will be.
  • Fuzzy sticks
  • Fuzzy socks
  • faux fur or fleece material
  • cotton balls
  • Copies of Seed Observation guide and Engineering Design Process handout for each student (from Attachments section) or student notebooks
  • Straws, chopsticks, clothespins, toothpicks, and/or spoons
  • Feathers
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Construction paper
  • Rubber bands
  • Any available materials from your recycling bin (empty water bottles, cardboard, cans, egg cartons, etc.)
  • Paper towels

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer with Internet connection and projector for showing videos and websites


In order for flowering plants to reproduce, pollen must travel from the stamen of the flower to the pistil so the ovule can be fertilized to produce a seed.  While some flowers can self-pollinate (use pollen from the same flower), many plants require cross-pollination (pollen from a different flower must be transported to the pistil for fertilization to occur.)  Animals such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, and birds are helpful in cross-pollination because they inadvertently transport pollen from flower to flower as they feed on nectar from the flowers.

Once seeds are produced, seeds may be transported by wind, water, or animals.  Seeds may stick to animals’ feet or fur, or they can be transported when an animal eats a seed and then drops it as waste in a new location.

For additional information, see the following sites:


Engage (15 minutes):

Ask students to help you solve a confusing problem: How can a tree grow by itself in the middle of a field if no one planted it there?  We know that trees grow from seeds, but if there are no other trees around, then how did the seed get there?  Record student responses on the board or a class chart.  (This will also serve as an informal assessment of students’ prior knowledge.)

Tell students that even if a person didn’t plant the seed, it might have been transported by someone else (an animal).  Explain that students model this process by having a relay race to transport seeds from one side of the room to the other.  Each team will have a different type of seed to carry, and the team that successfully transports all their seeds first wins.  Students are pretending to be animals for this race so there is a catch--they cannot use their hands for this challenge.

Divide class into teams of four students.  Give each person on the same team the same type of seed.  Before beginning the relay, give each group a few minutes to brainstorm a transportation strategy.

After the relay, debrief by asking the following questions:

  • Which seeds seemed easiest to carry?  Why?
  • Which strategies worked best for transporting the seeds?  Why?
  • What does this relay race relate to my original question, “How does a tree grow by itself in the middle of a field if no one planted it there?

Explore (30 minutes):

Tell students that they are going to look closely at seeds to see how properties of the seeds might help them move from one place to another.

Create six seed stations.  (This portion of the lesson is adapted from  Materials for each station:

  • 1-2 hand lenses (depending on the size of your groups)
  • A paper plate containing one type of seed (acorns, maple seeds, nuts in shells, fruit seeds, flower seeds, vegetable seeds, a whole coconut, etc.).  Label each paper plate with the type of seed it contains.
  • A bowl of water
  • A fuzzy stick or pipe cleaner
  • A fuzzy sock or piece of faux fur

Distribute copies of observation chart (located in Attachments Section).  Divide students into small groups and rotate through the stations.  Have students spend about 5 minutes at each station to complete the following activities:

  1. Observe the seeds with a hand lens.
  2. Draw and label the seed, discussing its size, shape, and texture within their groups as they observe.
  3. Test the seeds to see if they float in water.  Remove seeds from water and dry them with a paper towel.
  4. Test seeds to see if they stick to the fuzzy stick, sock, or faux fur.
  5. See if the seeds are easy to blow off the plate.  Have students drop a seed from an arm’s length over the plate to see if it drops straight down to the plate or drifts away from it. 
  6. Answer questions on Seed Observation chart and conclude how each type seed is most commonly transported based on evidence from their observations.

Explain (20 minutes):

Watch “Seed Song – How Seeds Move” YouTube video.  (You may want to print the lyrics of the song for students.  You can access the lyrics by clicking “See More” under the video.)

Divide students into groups of four and give each group a large piece of paper.  Have each group list all the ways seeds can move from one place to another.  Encourage them to think of possibilities listed in the song as well as other ways they imagine seeds are transported.  (Examples listed in the song include an acorn being buried and forgotten by a squirrel, a coconut falling in the water, a maple tree seed flying on the wind, and burrs getting stuck to people’s socks.  Possible examples students may think of include blowing dandelions, seeds getting stuck in animals’ fur, animals eating seeds and pooping them out, etc.)

Have each group read its ideas aloud to the class.  As students report their ideas, create a two-column chart where students classify their transportation methods as “With Animal Help” or “Without Animal Help.”

With Animal Help

Without Animal Help



Show students The Seed Site.  Look at the pictures of seeds and read how animals transport each type of seed.  Have students discuss the properties of seeds that would promote transport by particular methods.  (For example, seeds within tasty fruits are often eaten and spread through animal droppings, sticky or prickly seeds stick to animals’ fur or feathers.)

Elaborate (45 minutes):

Have students use their knowledge of the ways animals transport seeds and the engineering design process to come up with an animal structure to help them win the seed transportation relay race from the beginning of the lesson.  Have students look closely at the different types of seeds and choose the type that they think will be easiest to transport. Have them explain their choice, naming properties of the seed as evidence to support their choices.

Display a list of available materials and explain the challenge further.  Students can make an entire animal, or they may make the part of the animal essential to transport the seeds.  For example, they may create a bird beak that they can manipulate to pick up seeds, or they may use the fur to create a small chipmunk.

Guide students through the engineering design process: (You may use the Engineering Design Process planning guide included in the Attachments section, or you may have students record these steps in their science notebooks.)  Students can work on this solution as a complete team, or they can work in pairs so each team can try multiple solutions.

  • Ask: What’s the problem?  I need to carry my seed quickly. What are the constraints? I cannot use my hands.  I need to make an animal or animal structure with the materials given to transport the seed.
  • Imagine: What animal structures would do the best job transporting my seed? How can I make these structures with the materials given?  Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Plan: What materials do I need?  What will my solution look like?  Draw it.
  • Create and test.  Give students time to create their solutions and test them in the relay race.
  • Improve.  After the race, give students time to discuss how they can improve their animals and/or animal structures.  Race again to test these modifications.

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Assessment Strategies

  • Have each team present the animal or animal structure they built to the class.  Students should explain how they chose their materials, what structure or animal they built, why they created this particular animal or structure, and how they improved their design to make it transport seeds more effectively.  Students should also explain how they think animals such as the one they created transport seeds in real life.  Read the students’ Engineering Design Process handouts to see if the students’ notes reflect a connection between the models created and real animals.
  • Ask students to explain their thinking during the seed observation centers.  Read students’ seed observation pages to see if they made reasonable conclusions based on evidence from their observations.  


Acceleration Strategies / Activities:


Intervention Strategies / Activities:

  • Assign groups strategically, pairing students with peers who can provide assistance as necessary.
  • Read websites aloud to aid with comprehension.
  • Preview or review information on seed dispersal with this 2.5-minute video.
  • Provide concrete examples of ways materials can be used in the engineering design process by showing students a sample animal or structure you made.  Show pictures of real animals carrying seeds to give students ideas.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.