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Why do pine cones open and close?

Shelley Owen October 17, 2019

In our preschool program, we rotate a curious science question into our daily inquiry with students. One day in any preschool classroom, you will quickly discover that a four-year-old mind has tons of questions about the world around them, and they get excited to make discoveries.

After learning about the different parts of a pine cone (closed cone, open cone, cone scale, and seed), our students investigated how pine cones reacted in water.  The first thing the students noticed when the pine cones hit the water was that they float, and once wet, they almost immediately closed up! The ones in the cold water closed quicker than the ones in hot water.

Our students were excited to learn that pine cones are like seeds, as when it is warm and dry, the pine cone opens up to release the cone’s seeds. When it is damp or cold, the scales close up. After a few days, our cones sunk to the bottom, which provided a great opportunity to be observational scientists.

They also noticed that the round part of the glass acted like a magnifying glass giving us a really neat up-close view of our submerged pine cones.

The week up to our field trip to the pumpkin patch, students will be learning pumpkin anatomy, lots of interactive Math with pumpkins, and of course, whether or not pumpkins sink or float.

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