The Orangutan and the Seed

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Across Indonesia and Malaysia, I taught this lesson to hundreds of children during my year in Borneo. Now, you too can share the importance of orangutans as seed dispersers with the children in your life! For free PDF templates of the mask and seed diagram emailed to you, just subscribe to this blog.



Summary:  Students will learn how plants and orangutans are connected through an interactive lesson that includes a science experiment, an art project, and a game.  



Parts of a seed, parts of a plant, what a plant needs to grow, seed dispersal, endangered animals, what animals need in their habitat, deforestation, orangutan conservation

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  • Binoculars & magnifying glasses (optional)
  • Collected examples of seeds and plants in various stages of growth
  • Orangutan masks copied on cardstock
  • Markers and/or crayons
  • Hole punches
  • Scissors
  • Yarn
  • Beans (softened by adding hot water for 5 min.)
  • Seed diagram
  • White board, chalk board, or large piece of paper.
  • Markers or chalk to draw diagrams



The Parts of A Seed

  • Pass examples of  seeds around for the students to look at. Explain that there are many different kinds of seeds.
  • Seeds look different, but they all have 3 main parts (draw diagram).
  • The seed coat protects the seed from damage, weather, and animals.
  • A baby plant, called an embryo, is inside every seed.
  • The rest of the seed is called the endosperm. It is food for the baby plant.

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What Does a Plant Need to Grow?

  • There are five things that a plant needs to grow.
  • Have children guess while drawing a diagram on the board, demonstrate actions for very young children. 
    • Water
    • Sun
    • Soil
    • Nutrients
    • Air

The Parts of a Plant

  • After a seed has the five things that it needs to grow, which part of the plant grows first?
    • The roots grow first to drink water and nutrients for the plant. They hold the plant upright in the ground.
    • Next, the stem grows up towards the sunlight.
    • Leaves grow from the stem to catch the sunlight.
    • Flowers grow from some plants. Fruits grow from flowers.
  • Every fruit has a seed inside of it.
  • What is inside of a seed? A baby plant!

Dissect-a-Seed Science Experiment

  • Explain to the students that they are going to take apart a seed to find the parts inside.
  • Give a few softened beans to each student and demonstrate the dissection.
    • First, take off the seed coat.
    • Open up the seed to find the baby plant (embryo)! Use a magnifying glass to see it better.
    • The rest of the seed is food for the baby plant (endosperm) to use before it can make it’s own food. 

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Nature Walk

  • Seeds and plant parts are all around us. Have students take a little walk to see what parts of the plant they can find.
  • Take along binoculars and magnifying glasses to help them look.


Orangutans Need Seeds and Seeds Need Orangutans

  • What do orangutans eat?
    • They eat many things, mostly: fruit, leaves, flowers, and insects.
  • When they eat fruit, they drop the seeds in the forest. New fruit trees grow where the seeds are dropped.
  • Orangutans help the forest by spreading seeds that grow into trees.

Make Orangutan Masks

  • Tell students that they can pretend to be orangutans and help the forest too! 
  • Have students color and cut out the mask.
  • Help them to cut out the eyes.
  • Punch holes in the ears.
  • Tie a piece of yarn to each side.
  • Fit the mask around the child’s head and tie a bow in the back.  

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Orangutans Are Losing Their Habitat

  • What is Habitat? There are 5 main things that every animal needs in their habitat.
    • Food
    • Water
    • Shelter
    • Space
    • Air


Play “Oh Orangutan” (A modification of Project Wild’s “Oh Deer”)

  • Half of the students will start out as orangutans and half will start out as habitat in two lines facing each other on a playing court.
  • Students use their arms to make signs that represent food, water, shelter and space.
    • Space is arms spread wide.
    • Shelter is arms above the head with hands together.
    • Food is one hand rubbing the belly.
    • Water is one hand making a repeated cupped hand motion towards the mouth.
    • Air is both hands repeatedly grabbing at the air.
  • Each orangutan will decide what they need in their habitat for each round and make the appropriate sign.
  • The habitat will decide what kind of habitat they will be and make the appropriate sign.
  • When an adult says go, the orangutans look across to see if there is anyone with a matching sign on the habitat side.
  • Orangutans run across, take the matching person gently by the hand, and return to the orangutan side (note: habitat does not run). 
  • If the orangutans do not find a match, they stay and become part of the habitat.
  • The game continues for several rounds. 
  • Ask students to notice what happens when there are too many orangutans and not enough habitat. 


  • Ask assessment questions:
    • What do orangutans eat?
    • What is inside of every fruit?
    • What is inside of every seed?
    • How do orangutans help the forest?


  • Remind the children that when someone asks them about their mask, they can teach them all about how orangutans help forests.
  • Encourage students to act out pretending to be an orangutan eating fruit and dropping seeds.
  • Have the children complete and label a seed diagram worksheet.
  • Take home an orangutan coloring sheet for continued reinforcement of concepts.

Facebook album of the Orangutan and the Seed at the SBLD special needs school in Kalimantan, Indonesia


Please let me know how this lesson works for you. What modifications or suggestions do you have? I would love to see your orangutan mask pictures! 


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