Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Challenge students to explore and observe kōwhai trees with a particular focus on the seeds.

    Rights: Chloe Stantiall

    Tamariki collecting kōwhai seeds

    Tamariki at Silverdale Normal School collect kōwhai seeds and seed pods as part of an investigation into the past, present and future uses of kōwhai. This activity was used as a hook into a week-long inquiry unit about the uses and different knowledge sources of kōwhai.

    Kōwhai generally flower in late winter to early spring. Seeds are available to collect from beneath trees and from their pods for most of the year.

    Initially, students may only notice the seed pods hanging from the kōwhai trees, but after some purposeful searching of the ground near kōwhai trees, careful observers may notice the vast number of seeds. The hunting of seeds, which are quite inconspicuous, can promote curiosity and act as a hook for further learning.

    Rights: Chloe Stantiall

    Are there any kōwhai seeds?

    Students may notice one or two seeds at the first glance but are likely to find more with more purposeful searching.

    Having completed this activity, I was surprised at the level of curiosity and questions that such a simple task sparked for the tamariki and myself! We were all surprised at the number of seeds there were. An unplanned outcome was the questions that came from observing the seed pods that the seeds came from. There was a large variety of length, shape, size and colour. This could have been pursued further as its own investigation. Due to students’ own curiosity, seeds and seed pods were brought into the class over the subsequent weeks.

    Chloe Stantiall, Silverdale Normal School

    In this activity, students search for and collect seeds from local kōwhai trees.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • identify kōwhai trees, seed pods and seeds
    • locate and collect kōwhai seeds beneath and around kōwhai trees
    • describe their observation of kōwhai seeds in terms of the shape, colour and hardness of the seed pods
    • be curious about what they have observed and ask questions about kōwhai trees.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Nature of science

    The purposeful observations to locate kōwhai seeds and describe kōwhai seeds based on observations support student learning in the ‘Investigating in science’ and ‘Communicating in science’ strands of the Nature of Science.

    Useful links

    The Department of Conservation offers helpful information:


    This article was written by Chloe Stantiall as part of the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project Envisioning student possible selves in science: Addressing ‘plant blindness’ through place-based education. The project explores students’ sense of place and science-related possible selves through local curriculum units that focus on plants. Chloe was assisted by researchers Maurice M. W. Cheng and Bronwen Cowie from The University of Waikato.

      Published 29 May 2024 Referencing Hub articles
          Go to full glossary
          Download all