Engineering Inspired by Nature

                 

Students investigate seed dispersal and design and build flying toys.

Core concepts include Newton’s laws of motion, forces, and engineering design.

Once Upon a Time In the Woods is a tale about how trees in a crowded forest find some space for themselves, leading students to consider different reasons and methods for seed travel.

Lesson Plan Overview: Suggested 9 lessons over 11 days

Lesson 1 - Seed Travelers
Students are introduced to the dispersal methods by which plants spread their seeds. Students look closely at real seeds to figure out how they might be dispersed. They discuss their ideas about how specific seeds are dispersed and which ones might “make it” the farthest from the parent plant. They also consider why it might be important for seeds to disperse at all.

 

Lesson 2 - Spinning Seeds
In this activity, students briefly examine maple samara seeds to observe how they travel in the wind. They then explore paper models that spin like the rotors of a helicopter. They build their own paper helicopters, explore how they fly, and compare the way they fly to how maple seeds fly.

 

Lesson 3 - Testing Helicopters
In this activity, students compare the flight of maple samara seeds to the flight of a paper helicopter. Then they experiment with how changing the amount of weight attached to the helicopter changes the time it takes for a helicopter to hit the ground.

 

Lesson 4 - Testing Rotor Length
In this activity, students continue to explore paper models that spin like the rotors of a helicopter. They build their own paper helicopters and experiment with how changing the rotor length changes the time it takes for a helicopter to hit the ground.

 

Lesson 5 - Floating Seeds
In this activity, students consider how parachute seeds work. They then have the opportunity to build their own parachutes and test them.

 

Lesson 6 - Parachute Weight
In this activity, students explore how weight affects the parachute’s drop time. They also discuss their observations and results.

 

Lesson 7 - Parachute Surface Area
In this activity, students explore how the size (surface area) of a parachute affects the time it takes to drop to the ground. They build parachutes with larger canopies and explore how the larger-sized canopies change the time it takes for the parachute to hit the ground.

 

Lesson 8 - Build the Best Flyer
In this activity, students build a toy that will stay aloft as long as possible using knowledge that they’ve gained over the course of the challenge. In teams, students discuss how they will design their toy and build some prototypes to test. Based on their test, students build a toy to be entered into the flight challenge.

 

Lesson 9 - Drop Time Racing
In the previous activity, students had the opportunity to create a flyer designed to stay in the air as long as possible while carrying at least one paper clip. In this activity, student teams compete in races to compare their flyer’s drop time performance with other flyers.

 

Kit Materials

This kit provides materials for class size of 24 students working in teams of four.
 

Items

Quantity

Assorted Seeds

60

Magnifying Glasses

12

Ball of String

1

Circle Stickers

288

Feathers (assorted colors)

1 bag

Small Paper Clips 

2 boxes

Pipe Cleaners

35

Dental Floss

1

Tissue Paper (XL assorted colors)

24

Tissue Paper (L green)

24

Tissue Paper (M yellow)

24

Tissue Paper (S red)

24

Plastic Bags

10

Thread Spool

1

Children's Book: Once Upon a Time in the Woods

1

Downloadable Curriculum and Supporting Files

1

 

Resources

Sample Lesson Plan

Tradebooks to Introduce STEM

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