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.


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.


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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