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  • Collecting kōwhai seeds from outside the classroom and then growing them inside breaks down the perception that learning only happens in the classroom. This activity will provide students with opportunities to learn about the process of seed germination.

    Rights: Chloe Stantiall

    Planting kōwhai seeds

    Tamariki research seed preparation options and make choices about planting conditions.

    In this activity, students plant kōwhai seeds. After researching what kowhai seeds may need to grow, they make decisions about the conditions that will be the best for their seeds. This sets the scene for a scientific investigation that becomes student driven as they predict and observe growth from their seeds. Allowing tamariki to make choices about how and where they plant their seeds increases student agency, learning and engagement.

    Rights: Kōwhai, Phil Bendle, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ.

    Kōwhai seeds

    Kōwhai seeds have hard seed coats. The brown spots indicate the position of the embryos, which grow into seedlings. Sanding or clipping the seed coat speeds up the germination process.

    During this lesson, I found it quite hard not to interfere too heavily with the decisions students were making while planting their seeds. Some students left their seeds on the top of the soil, some appeared to drown them, some added sand from the sandpit and some seemed to bury them at the bottom of their container. However, over the duration of the lesson as they went back and read the instructions again or watched other students, most seeds were planted in a way that meant germination was at least a potential! The pride they had in their container having made the decisions themselves was well worth it.

    We did this activity one week before the end of term and students took their containers/seeds home. When they returned after the break, one student had diligently watered and cared for her seedling and we were able to have a class discussion about why this student’s kōwhai germinated and others didn’t.

    Chloe Stantiall, Silverdale Normal School

    In this activity, students learn about the planting conditions required to successfully grow kōwhai seeds and then plant their seeds.

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

    • use resources to research the conditions needed to grow kōwhai seeds
    • identify and take the steps required to plant kōwhai seeds
    • justify the decisions they make about how to plant seeds.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Nature of science

    When students research the conditions required for seed germination and take the steps to plant the seeds, they are working with the ‘Investigating in science’ strand of the Nature of Science.

    Related content

    Learn more about seeds with the following resources:

    Related activities

    Extend student learning with these seed-related activities:

    Useful links

    Use the following resources to learn how to prepare kōwhai seeds for planting:

    Consider using NZ Maths’ The Greenhouse Effect to look at the relationships between the rates of growth rates of different plants.


    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
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