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Plant Domestication and Adaptation: A Seed Dispersal Game

Curriculum Links

To see our 2023 Maize Meeting abstract, slides, zines, video tutorials, lesson plan, and instructions go to our seed_dispersal_game repository on the Buckler Lab BitBucket Page.

We have developed an engaging, flexible curriculum for teaching plant domestication and adaptation to students of all grade levels that meet numerous National Next Generation Science Standards. This activity is low-cost and easy to implement and transitions well into further lessons on plant science, Indigenous agriculture, plant domestication, plant breeding, and evolution. The activity is fun and makes for an engaging, dynamic learning experience that can be used at science workshops and in classrooms. The game starts with students designing, building, and testing seeds developed for dispersal in the wild. Next, students mimic the process of domestication by optimizing their designs to create seeds that are more easily harvestable. With our curriculum, students accomplish the following learning goals:

  1. Understand that modern crops were domesticated by Indigenous farmers 10,000 years ago.

  2. Learn that limiting plant seed dispersal was a large driver for plant domestication in response to farmers’ needs.

  3. Visualize that plants use multiple adaptations and methods to accomplish seed dispersal.

  4. Identify that traits can be selected upon, both naturally and artificially, and that plant domestication often selects for differing traits than natural selection.


We have found that this activity gets students of all ages excited about plants and encourages them to think critically about the roles that domestication has played in our current food system. The entire curriculum (lesson plans, presentation, room setup guide, and supplies list) is available below.

For a demo of how this activity is run virtually, check out this YouTube video:

Have any questions, comments, or concerns about getting this activity implemented in your classrooms? Contact Aimee Schulz ( and Merritt Khaipho-Burch (

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