The Sultana Game – Understanding Fruit and Seed Dispersal


This is a game I have often played to introduce the concept of seed dispersal, in particular to get young pupils to think about the way in which large seeds such as hazelnuts and conkers are dispersed by small mammals. A number of small mammals habitually store food for the winter. Stores of food, which are not found or revisited, are potentially able to germinate and grow into new plants.

Give each pupil a sultana and tell them they are squirrels and this is part of their winter store of food. Define clearly the area in which they can hide their sultana. Leave the area and carry on with some other activity (for at least half an hour, longer if possible). The pupils are then given five minutes to find their sultana. Several will not be able to find them.

Ask the pupils why, if animals can’t find their store of seeds, this might be important to a plant.

I don’t know where the idea came from for this game. It was originally played with peanuts but I have adapted it by using sultanas to avoid possible problems with pupils who suffer from nut allergies. Sultanas are also readily biodegradable! Children should be warned not to eat the sultanas after they have been hidden. It is a good idea to have a bag of clean sultanas as a reward for ‘busy squirrels’.

Dr Anne Bebbington

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