The Power of Wind

Helicopter_SeedsBy Amanda Moses

Wind—a force of nature that causes our umbrellas to turn inside out and make our hats fly across Spring Creek Towers’ Great Lawn because of its huge gusts. While it may be something we attribute to annoying weather patterns, PS 346 students are learning that the wind is an instrumental part of nature in the Spring Creek’s Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Aquaponics Lab.

“Wind is a part of the physical environment,” said Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, who explained to a group of fourth graders that their lesson will focus on the various ways plants disperse seeds using wind power. We can study wind’s ability to shape the earth’s terrain through the Aeolian process, which describes the cause of erosion, deposits of materials and how materials, such as vegetation, are transported.

“For the next generation of plants and trees to flourish, a parent plant tries to disperse its seeds far from itself. That’s because young seedlings could become competitors with their parent for basic survival needs; such as sunlight (to make food) and water. In this competition, the seedlings often lose. A tree that drops seeds directly below its boughs may block the sunlight that its offspring needs to grow,” said Roytman. Plants have evolved overtime to solve this problem by scattering the seeds.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.38.08 PMIn fact, wind has the most direct effect on seed distribution. Pine trees disperse their seeds through their pine cones, which are blown in different directions. The seeds in Oak trees are found within acorns, which in turn are collected by squirrels or again blown away by the wind. Some seeds come in pods that burst open and are ejected from the parent plant. “Trees like the maple and linden have seeds with wings and rely on the power of the wind to carry the seeds away from the parent,” said Roytman. Linden trees make helicopter-like seed containers, and when pushed by strong winds these seeds can travel very far.

After explaining the concept of wind power to the students, Roytman showed them how to create a model of wind dispersing seeds. By doing so, the class recreated a Linden helicopter seed using a thin cardboard, scissors, modeling clay, color markers, rulers and pencils.

Upon cutting out the shape of the helicopter seed, the children added a pinch of model clay at the bottom of the stem to represent the seed. This addition will give the helicopter weight enabling it to land. Once the models were created the class tested their project’s flight capability by placing them in front of a fan’s wind and recording their findings.