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How to make ladybird clay seed balls

How to…

Inspired by the ancient Japanese practice of Tsuchi Dango or ‘earth dumpling’, use compost and clay with large seeds, e.g. nasturtium or sunflower, to make these simple ladybird clay seed balls.

  • Estimated time: 30 minutes
  • Location: Outdoors & Indoors
  • School term: Early Autumn, Late Autumn
  • Level of experience: No experience needed

Introduction

This activity is well suited to younger pupils and could be linked to maths topics such as counting, symmetry or the two times table, as well as being a fun way to develop fine motor skills and plant seeds in your garden.

  1. Use a mister to moisten the soil.

  2. Mould the soil into a ball.

  3. Flatten the ball of soil between your two palms.

  4. Carefully open the packet of seeds.

  5. Start with two spots on the 'pronotum' (the area behind a ladybird's head).

  6. Use a stick or the end of an old pencil to mark the wings and the 'pronotum'

  7. Establish that spots on its wings are usually symetrical and press seeds into each wing

  8. Once you have finished your ladybird, it is ready to throw outside on some bare soil. The seeds should germinate next spring

Additional information

Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer celebrated for his natural farming techniques and his efforts to regenerate landscapes. He used an ancient Japanese gardening practice called ‘Tsuchi Dango’, which translates as ‘earth dumpling’. Each year, he would throw clay seed balls onto his land that contained seeds for next season’s crop.   
 
You may also wish to show your pupils images of ladybirds beforehand so they can make their own observations and notice patterns in the arrangement of their spots.

Equipment needed:

  • Large annual seeds (e.g. nasturtium or sunflower)
  • Air-drying clay
  • Compost
  • Mister filled with water