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The Dandelion Seed: Design A Seed Engineering Challenge

Design a Seed Engineering Challenge (

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I love seeds! All the different shapes, the variety, the adaptations for survival, they are all pretty amazing. When learning about seeds with kids, one of my favorite picture books to read is the beautifully illustrated story, The Dandelion Seed, by Joseph Anthony and illustrated by Cris Arbo.
The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony Illustrated by Cris Arbo

The story follows a hesitant dandelion seed as it floats away from its plant in the fall. Throughout its adventure it passes through the 4 seasons, by cities and countryside until eventually it comes full circle and grows into a dandelion plant. This plant makes seeds as well that head off on their own adventures on the last page.

The book is a great entry point to many science topics including plant life cycles, seasonal changes and plant adaptations. The topic of plant adaptations leads us to a fun engineering challenge: design a seed! Some seeds fly in the air, some float in the water. Some stick to the fur of animals, our socks and pants to get from one place to another. Some even must be digested before they can grow!

Design Challenge
The engineering challenge will be to design three different seeds and test out their abilities. You'll design one that is meant to fly in the breeze, one that will float in water, and another that will stick to something fuzzy.

You can use any household materials for your design challenge. I suggest items such as: scrap paper, box board (cereal boxes, cracker boxes etc.) drinking straws, string, 3x5 index cards, rubberbands, paperclips and scissors. To make it more of a challenge do not include tape, glue or velcro in your supplies.
©SBF 2016

Although most seeds are fairly small, your designs can be as big as you'd like, as long as they float, fly and stick you've accomplished your goal!

Once you've created a seed that you think will fly, test it out! If it is a dry day you can take your seed outside, or (keeping safety in mind) drop it out an upstairs window. You can also set up a fan and test it indoors. (Please watch out for little fingers!)

Flying seeds ©SBF 2016
Flying seeds?! ©SBF 2016

How did your seed do? Do you need to redesign and try again?

You can test your floating seed in the sink, a basin or the bathtub.

Floating seed designs. ©SBF 2016
Floating seed designs. ©SBF 2016
Testing floating seeds. ©SBF 2016
Testing floating seeds. ©SBF 2016
Find a fuzzy blanket, fleece jacket, or patient pet to test your sticky seed out. How well do they work? It is okay to tweak your design, that is what professional engineers do!

Sticky seed designs ©SBF 2016
Sticky seed designs. ©SBF 2016

Testing sticky seeds on a fuzzy blanket. ©SBF 2016
Testing sticky seeds on a fuzzy blanket. ©SBF 2016
Once you are finished, you might want to learn more about seed adaptations. What different shapes do seeds come in? Can you find any that look like the seeds you created? I suggest picking up a copy of Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken, illustrated by Pam Paparone. This colorful story with fun text describes how many different types of seeds travel, with an example of each. Who knows, maybe it will inspire a new seed design challenge?

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the move by JoAnn Early Macken, illustrated by Pam Paparone

Another excellent non-fiction picture book is How and Why? Seeds Travel by Elaine Pascoe with photographs by Dwight Kuhn. This book has great close-up photography of seeds on the move and their growth and development. It wraps up with some additional learning activities to try.

How and Why? Seeds Travel by Elaine Pascoe, photographs by Dwight Kuhn

If you enjoyed The Dandelion Seed, you'll also like the Joseph Anthony's second story about dandelion seeds, The Dandelion Seed's Big Dream. This one follows a seeds plight through some tough conditions before its dream comes true, to grow into a flower. Some science ideas here are persistence in nature, plant adaptations and life cycles. There is also a nice section in the back of the book with some scientific information about dandelion plants.
The Dandelion Seed's Big Dream by Joseph Anthony, illustrated by Cris Arbo

If you love books and science, then you definitely will enjoy the Storybook Science series at Inspiration Laboratories! 

Storybook Science


  1. I love the idea of learning about seeds and engineering your own!

    1. Thanks, Trisha! The activity is definitely a hit with the kids too!

  2. I love the seed design challenge - and what a good selection of books.

    1. Thanks Sue! The Dandelion Seed is one of my favorites!

  3. Replies
    1. It's definitely and engaging activity, and helps kids to notice details about seeds later on too!

  4. What ages do you think is good for?

    1. Great question! I've done this with all levels of elementary. I think it is best for grade 3-5, but even younger kids enjoy building and testing things.