Top Image: Hand holding acorns (photo by Valeria Boltneva, Pixels)

Setting the Stage

Prior Skills and Knowledge

To successfully participate in this Design & Build, students should be able to use basic cutting tools (e.g., scissors) and fasteners (e.g, various types of tape and glue) for construction. They should also have an understanding of the function of various parts of a plant, in particular the role of seeds. It is highly recommended that students conduct the Seed Dispersal Inquiry prior to doing this Design & Build challenge.


Tucked away on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to store some of the world's most important seeds in the event that all of the Earth’s crops are wiped out. The Seed Vault, which is located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, is also able to maintain a chilly temperature of -18 ºC.

It is critical that students are able to work collaboratively throughout the design and build process. Educators can foster this skill by helping students to see what they do well and the strengths that other students bring to the group. A collaborative group works well when it builds on the strengths of each of its members.

In this Design & Build challenge, students will work collaboratively to create a prototype of a seed-saving device that can keep various sizes of seeds organized and safe (dry, cool, etc.) for a specific period of time (e.g., from a collection of seeds to planting the following spring).

This design and build could begin from:

Eyeglasses and case
Source: Richard Revel, Pexels

  • questions and/or comments from students about how people keep different things safe. Discuss using questions such as:
    • What are some things that we need to protect and keep safe (e.g., food, money, family photos, our glasses or contact lenses, babies and young children)?”
    • What are ways in which we protect/keep things safe (e.g., we store perishable food in the fridge, money in a bank, glasses in a case, baby gates by stairs)?”
  • exploring a variety of seeds. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “What do all of these things have in commons?”
    • “Where do seeds come from?”
    • “Why are seeds important?”
    • “People eat many parts of plants including seeds. What are seeds that people eat? What is your favourite seed to eat?”
  • Squash seeds
    Source: Couleur, Pixabay

    Sunflower seeds
    Source: PIX1861, Pixabay


    Cover of Time to Eat: Animals Who Hide and Save Their Food
    Source: Open Library

  • reading a book such as Time to Eat: Animals Who Hide and Save Their Food. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “Why do animals like squirrels hide nuts?”
    • “What other animals did we see in the book that hide food such as seeds and nuts?"

Design Criteria

As a class, students brainstorm criteria that their prototype seed savers must meet. Educators may choose to add other criteria that are curriculum-specific, such as using joiners/fasteners, measuring, sorting & classifying, using specific materials, etc.

Design criteria examples:

  • Seed saver must be a closed container
  • The seed saver must be able to store at least five different sizes of seeds
  • Seeds inside the seed saver must be sorted and kept apart from each other (cannot get mixed together)
  • The seed saver must keep the seeds dry
  • The seed saver must protect the seeds from predators
  • You must use at least four different materials and three different fasteners

Materials and Preparation (Click to Expand)

Materials that students could use to build their seed savers

Suggested materials
Source: photo by Let's Talk Science


  • New or recycled craft materials such as construction paper, craft foam, tissue paper Styrofoam, aluminum foil, string, yarn, fabric, ribbon, pipe cleaners, craft sticks, buttons, etc.
  • New or recycled containers such as paper plates, Styrofoam plates or bowls, etc.
  • Construction tools such as scissors, rulers, tape, glue, etc.
  • Seeds, in a variety of shapes and sizes


  • Collect an assortment of recycled and new materials that students will use to construct the prototype seed savers. The materials list above is only a suggested list.
  • Set up material sourcing stations, organized by type of material. Alternatively, organize an assortment of materials to be provided.

What To Do

Students develop Design & Build skills as they design, build and test a prototype seed saver that can keep various sizes of seeds organized and safe for x months (e.g., for planting the following year).

Assortment of dried spices
Source: monicore, Pixabay

Students will follow the steps of the Design & Build process:

  • identify the problem to be solved/need to be met
  • brainstorm criteria that the prototype must meet
  • share their questions and ideas for a solution to the problem/need
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each in order to select a potential solution to be tested
  • visualize what the solution might look like and make design sketches based on their visualizations
  • develop a design plan (e.g., identify the tasks or key steps involved in developing the solution, make decisions about tools and materials that will be needed, include labelled sketches)
  • build/develop the design idea based on the design plan
  • test their prototypes based on the design criteria
  • modify the prototype and retest it against the design criteria as necessary
  • reflect on their results and identify things that could be done to improve their prototypes


Observe and document, using anecdotal comments, photos and/or video recordings, student’s ability to:

  • Work Collaboratively - students work collaboratively to complete a task and evaluate their group processes throughout the Design & Build process
  • Generate Ideas  students use idea generation strategies, such as brainstorming, to identify possible solutions as well as make decisions about the pros and cons of each solution
  • Communicate  students communicate their thinking and learning in words and/or sketches and/or photos and/or videos, etc. (e.g., in design plans that include 2D design sketches, in outlines of key design steps/tasks, in lists of required materials/equipment/tools)
  • Work Safely  students demonstrate safe practices when using a variety of tools and materials while building/creating prototypes
  • Reflect – students reflect on the results of their prototype testing and suggest things that they might do differently to improve their prototypes

Co-constructing Learning

Saying, Doing, Representing

Educator Interactions:
Responding, Challenging

Students identify and refine the problem to be solved/need to be met.

  • “What additional information do you need to have before you can solve the problem (e.g., about the seeds, about the materials, about the fasteners)?”
  • “What do you already know about seeds?”
  • “What other questions about seeds do you need to answer before you can begin working on a solution?”

Students brainstorm and record criteria for the seed saver.

  • “What words could we use to describe some of the features the seed saver must have to be effective?”
  • “What kinds of things could be a threat to a seed?”

Students visualize what the solution might look like and make design sketches based on their visualizations.

  • “Why do engineers label all of the parts of their design sketches?”
  • “How are you going to represent each part of the seed saver in the design sketch?”

Students develop a design plan (e.g., steps in creating a prototype, decisions about tools and materials).

  • “Which materials do you think will be good ones to use to build your structure? Why?”
  • “Which materials would not be good to use?  Why not?”
  • “Which fasteners will you use? Why are those better than others?”
  • “Which tools will you choose to help you build your design? Why?”

Students build/develop and test the design idea based on their sketches and design plan (create the prototype).

  • “Which of the design criteria does your prototype meet? Which ones does it not yet meet? Why do you think this happened?”
  • “How well did your group follow the plan you made for building your design?”
  • “What changes did you need to make to your initial plan? Why?”
  • “What challenges did your group face in working together to build your structure?  How did you overcome those challenges?”
  • “How was your structure tested?”
  • "Does your prototype meet the predetermined design criteria?"

Students modify the prototype and retest it against the design criteria as necessary.

  • “What problems did you have when you re-tested your seed saver?”
  • “What changes in your model might improve your results?”
  • “How will you modify your design so that it better meets the criteria?”

Students reflect on the results of their testing and identify things that could be done differently in the future.

  • “What materials worked best? What materials did not work as well?”
  • “What challenges did your team encounter in working collaboratively to complete the challenge?”
  • “How did your prototype meet the design criteria?”
  • How is your prototype the same as that of your classmates? Different?”
  • “What suggestions do you have for redesigning or modifying your prototype or your classmates’ prototypes in order to improve them?”

Cross-Curricular Connections


  • Ask questions (e.g. "What would be a good way to organize seeds?" "What materials are good for keeping things dry?")
  • Communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas (e.g. brainstorm criteria for the seed saver)

Mathematical Thinking

  • Sort and classify (e.g., sort seeds in different ways relevant to designing a seed saver)
  • Compare and contrast (e.g., look for similarities and differences in seeds to be saved)
  • Put objects in order (e.g., order seeds from smallest to largest)

Visual Arts

  • Sketch, represent, and model (e.g., make design sketches of the seed saver, build a prototype model from the sketches)

Extending the Learning

If your students are interested in learning more, the following may provoke their curiosity:

  • Provide students with opportunities to collect seeds from the local environment. Discuss how they can determine the types of seeds they found. How are the seeds similar and different? Why might this be so? Which types of seeds are most/least common? Where did students determine were the best places to find seeds? Why would this be?
  • Provide students with opportunities to locate and collect seeds from fruit that they bring to school (apples, oranges, bananas, kiwis, etc.). How easy/difficult is it to find the seeds? Provide opportunities for students to plant the seeds and track the results.

Maple seeds
Source: Roger Culos, Wikimedia Commons

Colourful fruit
Source: Public Domain Pictures, Pexels