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Pine Cone Surprise

Supplies:

at least two pine cones | bowl of tap water

It's fun to go outside and collect a pine cone for this activity. The best kind to get are from a white pine or a hemlock pine. Ask your neighbors or go to a park if you don't have pine cones near the preschool or your home.

Tell the children that a pine cone is a collection of seeds for a pine tree. A pine cone doesn't LOOK like the seeds they're used to seeing, but that's what each little part of a pine cone really is - a seed that can grow a new pine tree.

Let's see something cool that a pine cone does when it gets wet.

Place a pinecone in the water. Watch the clock: leave it in there for 10 minutes. You can do something else while you wait.

Now look what happened to the wet pine cone. Compare it to the dry one. Why did this happen?

Let the pine cone dry out, and then check it again.

The reason: a pine cone is a big container of seeds for a pine tree. Each little part that sticks out of a pine cone has a little seed on the end of it, deep inside the pine cone, where you can't see.

The wind has to blow the pine cone off the tree and onto bare ground, pretty far away from the tree, in order for the seeds to get into the soil and sprout in a place where the sun can shine on it. If a pine cone just falls straight underneath the tree, it will be too shady to grow. And then there won't be any more new pine trees coming along.

So it's best for a pine cone to keep its seeds lightweight, and as dry as possible. The wind can blow a dry pine cone much more easily than a wet and heavy one. The little parts that stick out to the sides of the pine cone act sort of like wings to help it fly.

To keep itself dry, then, the pinecone closes up tight when it gets wet. Even in a big rainstorm, the inside of the pine cone will stay dry. The outside of it acts as a sort of mini umbrella to keep the inside of the pine cone as dry as possible.

You can go outside after a rainstorm and look at what has happened to the pine cones that are still hanging on the trees.

When the outside of the pine cone dries, it opens up again - ready, willing, and able to be blown away to plant the pine cone seeds.

Isn't it amazing how seeds of different plants can look so different, and do so many cool things, like our open/closed pine cone, and yet they all do the same thing: start a new plant?

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Preschool 02 © 2010

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