Resources Details

Native American Seed Jewelry

This is a single-activity lesson that encourages students in visual arts using natural products. Students create jewelry from various plant seeds, a traditional art among Native Americans. Class discussion about the uses of plants reinforces student understanding about the diversity and ubiquity of plants, as well as the use of natural products among native cultures.

Key Concepts

Biological Science, Plants, Seeds


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1 - 50 minute classtime




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Life Science

Resource Type

Extended Lesson Plan





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Traditional Native American clothing often is elaborately decorated with various items in various colors, including feathers, bones, animal teeth and antlers, and beads. Individual tribes sometimes use distinctive patterns in decorating their leather or cloth clothes. A wide variety of plant seeds adorned native clothing and other household items long before Native Americans obtained glass beads, metal coins, small mirrors, and other decorative objects from white traders and explorers. Strung together, seeds formed necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and other ornaments to be either worn or attached to clothing. In some native cultures, such adornments were highly ornate with complicated designs.

Plants and plant products are everywhere in our everyday lives. Plants we eat are the most visible, but uses for plants are innumerable. Trees supply wood for building houses and pulp for making paper. Cotton fibers are ubiquitous in our clothing, household goods, and other items. Many plants yield oils for cooking and lubrication. Decorative plants beautify our homes and other spaces. Like other living things, plants reproduce through a variety of ways, including the production of seeds. Usually dry and protected with a hard coat, most seeds remain viable for years until the right combination of conditions exist to initiate growth. A seed is the result of fusion between the male germ in a pollen grain and the female germ in the plant ovule. The embryo that results is protected within a seed coat, which also encloses a food supply to support the initial growth when the seed eventually germinates. Some seeds, such as dandelion seeds, have special structures that help disseminate the seeds, for example, by floating through water and air or attaching to some moving object like an animal's fur coat.


The purpose of this activity is to give students an appreciation of the multitude of uses for plants. Students create jewelry with various seeds strung on thread, styled after traditional Native American ornaments.


Edith Horn Wagner
Cultural Consultant - Blackfeet

I have been teaching for 12 years, two of which were in Frazer, MT. I currently teach 6th grade math and science for the Browning Public Schools. I am married and have 3 children.


  • seed - small part of plant designed for propogation

Learner Outcomes

  • Recognize that there are many uses for plants and plant products.
  • Understand that plants have different structures with different purposes, in this case, seeds for growing new plants.
  • Appreciate that native cultures utilize items from the surrounding environment for many aspects of daily life.

Content Standards

  • Life Science Content Standard C: Organisms and environments
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Content Standard F: Types of resources


  • Seeds in various sizes, shapes, and colors
  • Beading thread (elastic thread is a good option)
  • Needles for stringing beads
  • Seed-soaking containers
  • Small dishes or lids for dispensing seeds to students

Lesson Procedures

  • Soak seeds in water until seeds are soft and pliable. This should take 1 to 2 hours, but time depends on the types of seeds. (Note: Teachers should pre-test various seeds to determine the soaking time required and to select seeds most useful for this activity.)
  • Pre-punch the holes in the seeds so the students do not have to do this step, which can be difficult with certain seed types. Allow seeds to dry for a few hours before using.
  • Ask students to list various uses of plants. Do they know what seeds are? Why do plants produce seeds? Have students ever planted seeds?
  • Give each student a length of beading thread, either for a necklace or a bracelet, as well as a needle. (Note: Teachers may want to pre-thread the needles for students.)
  • Ask students to design and make their own jewelry. Give each student a small dish or lid and allow students to select seeds for their jewelry.
  • Help students tie-off the string ends of the finished jewelry.


  • Plants have many uses.


  • Student participation in class discussion on plant uses
  • Student participation in jewelry-making activity


  • Make another necklace or bracelet for a friend or family member.
  • Plant some of the soaked seeds in small containers of dirt to see whether they grow.
  • Use the Internet or library books to find the appearances of the plants that would grow from seeds used to make the jewelry.
  • Soak large seeds like lima beans overnight, then carefully peel away the seed coat and pull apart the two halves of the beans to reveal the tiny embryo plant within.


  • Native American Clothing -
  • seed structure -