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How did a tree travel halfway around the world?
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How did a tree travel halfway around the world?
Scroll for prep
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Discuss:

How do you think Koa trees could be in these two different places, half a world apart?

Take a minute or two to come up with ideas that might explain this!

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Quick check:

Now that you've seen that video, do you have any new ideas about how the Koa tree seeds might have traveled?

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Quick check:

So now you know the seeds didn't fly to Reunion island... any new thoughts?

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Discuss: Do you have any idea what animal could have carried the seeds from Hawaii to Reunion Island?

Reveal answer

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Discuss:

Did all three seed flyers work equally well at avoiding the Zone of Darkness?

How did each seed flyer's structure (shape) help them disperse?

What is missing indoors, but could have affected your results if you did this activity outside?

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.

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Extra Activity: Woolly Sock Walk

Burrs are seeds that travel by hitching a ride on an animal's fur or a person's socks. If you have a weedy area near your school, your students can discover what hitchhiking seeds live in your area by going on a woolly sock walk.

On a dry day in autumn, have each student bring in a woolly sock big enough to wear over their shoe. After going for a walk through the weeds, have students pull off the seeds that they have collected on their socks and figure out how the seeds stuck to the socks. Student can even plant the seeds and see what plants grow. (Read more ideas for this activity.)

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Extras - Online Videos

These videos from the BBC Private Life of Plants show how different kinds of seeds travel in different ways from their parent plant.
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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
explorer ship by William Lionel Wyllie
world map by Imgur
figurehead on ship by Gary Anderson
Koa tree by B.navez
inside Koa tree by Forest & Kim Starr
ship by Samuel Atkins
sinking ship in storm by Peter Monamy
water damage to ship by Teresa Carey
telescope view by Gareth Kennedy
man looking through telescope by Imgur
collection by Curious Expeditions
chameleon by Marc Staub
giant tortises by David Adam Kess
Koa tree by Cynthia Saylor, R(S)
tree flowers reunion by B.navez
tree flowers in Hawaii by Imgur
tree on cliff by
seeds by Tatters ❀
Reunion Island by Forrest and Kim Starr
man on large tree trunk by Doug Peltz
yellow dandelion by Greg Hume
dandelion seed head by Greg Hume
dandelion partially blown away by Dan
dandelion video "Blow away" by ecstaticist
maple tree video by kdwpinfo
vines by P.B. Pelser & J.F. Barcelona
vine seed by Scott Zona
maple seeds by Bob Larrick
dandelion field by Alias 0591
seed parachute by Didier Descouens
shade trees by Kay
seed pod video by tyoukogatalabo
coconut palm on beach by Tomas Sobek
looking up at coconut palm by Mohammed Alnaser
coconuts in tree by David Stanley
Coconuts float by iTaylorJay
coconut on shore by Jan Smith
Sea bean tree by Gh5046
Sea bean pod by Dick Culbert
Sea bean seed by Muséum de Toulouse
Koa seed pod by w:en:KarlM
Ocean mountain in distance by Hillebrand Steve, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Open coconut by Inna Moody
Sea been shell by Didier Descouens
Koa seeds by J. B. Friday
Cherries by 4028mdk09
Cherry tree by Aquamelli
Raccoon eating cherry by Shelly Cox
Seed in ground by Imgur
Squirrel by Mr.TinDC
Other
tree on peak by Stephane.janel
Print Prep
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students will learn how seeds must get away from their parent plant in order to survive. In the activity, Fly Your Own Seed, students create a model seed from paper. Then, they release these seeds to model how they disperse and observe if any seeds are able to escape the parent plant’s “Zone of Darkness” and survive.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Glider worksheet 1 per student
Rotocopter worksheet 1 per student
Spinner worksheet 1 per student
Chair
For the “official seed dropper” to stand on.
Details
1 chair per class
Scissors
1 pair per student
Black Construction Paper
Used as the "ZONE OF DARKNESS." The smaller the paper, the easier it is for students to succeed. To make it more difficult, use additional sheets of paper.
Details
1 sheet per class
Medium Binder Clips (1 1/4")
You can also use a clothespin.
Details
1 clip per class
Paper Clips
1 clip per student
Prep Instructions

We have provided three worksheets, each with instructions on how to build a model of a particular type of seed. In a class, we suggest giving students a choice of which seed type they’d like to construct. You could also choose to have everyone build the same type of seed. If students finish early, you can have them construct multiple seed models.

Decide Who Will Be the Official Seed Dropper

This activity works best if the seed models are dropped from a significant height. We suggest that the teacher (or student) carefully stand on a chair to drop the seeds. You may want to elect a particular student to be the Official Seed Dropper.

Extensions