BFI logo











Screenonline banner
KS2 Science: The Birth of a Flower (1910)

Learn about seed germination using time-lapse photography

Main image of KS2 Science: The Birth of a Flower (1910)
Author Michael Hammond, LSBU
Topic Seed germination.
Show full lesson spec

The Birth of a Flower (1910) is an early example of the use of time-lapse photography. This film captures the poetry of flowers opening their petals to the light.

The Birth of a Flower (1910) might be used in a number of ways: for example as a starter/plenary on photosynthesis or the starting point for considering the benefits and limitations of certain moving image techniques in promoting scientific discovery and understanding.

In this lesson pupils will be encouraged to consider the advantages of time-lapse photography and develop their understanding of seed germination.

Lesson Objective

  • To investigate the factors affecting seed germination.
  • To think about how certain techniques used in film might support learning in science


Begin by showing pupils the extract from the film. DO they know how the flowers were filmed? It is more than likely that they have come across time-lapse photography in other television programmes. Explain that in 1910 this method was entirely new. In fact, the director, Percy Smith, concocted an elaborate set-up (made up of, among other things, candle wicks, door handles and gramophone needles) that allowed him film growth of these flowers even as he slept - a large bell was set to ring and wake him if any part of the process malfunctioned.

Ask the children to discuss in pairs why they think this method of filming was used. Ask them to also discuss whether they have seen time-lapse photography before in other television programmes - what is the benefit of this technique? Pairs should share their ideas with the rest of the class.


Main Attraction

Explain that pupils will be beginning their own investigation into the different factors affecting the growth of a seed. In order to do this, they will be using time lapse photography to record the process of a seed growing over the course of the week.

Before beginning the experiment, ask pupils what factors they think will have an impact on seed germination, collecting their ideas on the board.

Now, go through each section below with the class, asking the children to record in their own words in their books while stressing the importance of a fair test:

  • Aim
  • Equipment
  • Factors to change
  • Factors to keep the same
  • Prediction

Once the parameters of the experiment have been established, separate the class into roughly 4 groups, asssigning each group a different factor to focus on (heat, light etc.)

Pupils should be encouraged to set up their experiment - placing a bean seed onto a damp piece of kitchen towel which is placed between two transparent plastic cups, one inside the other.

Photographs of each seed will need to be taken on a digital camera at regular intervals - around three times a day for five days. Pupils need to be made aware that the each photo should be taken from the same position.

At the end of the week, download the images onto a computer and using an animation package such as Windows Movie Maker or JASC Animation Shop, you can produce a simple time lapse photography film (pupils are unlikely to be able to do this without a lot of support - instructions for teachers are included in the link below).

Before watching the films, ask a spokesperson from each group to share their predictions with the rest of the class. These can be compared to each individual film, watched as a whole class. After watching the films students should complete their experiment write-up:

  • Results
  • Conclusion
  • Evaluation

End Credits

Ask students to discuss, in their pairs, how useful they think time-lapse photography was in conducting the investigation. Explain that some scientific processes are easier to tell or show in moving images than print (ie. in an magazine article) and vice versa. Can pupils think of any examples?


External Links
Making a Time Lapse Film

Video Clips
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Birth of a Flower, The (1910)Birth of a Flower, The (1910)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of Box of Delights: Birth of a Flower, The (1910)Box of Delights: Birth of a Flower, The (1910)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque Box of Delights DVD