Calling all budding scientists! We have an exciting competition for all children under the age of 12.

The SEB is excited to support Together TV in their new UK-based initiative, The Sunflower Challenge. They will distribute over 400,000 free sunflower seeds across the UK supported by tutorial videos, content from TV’s “The Instant Gardener” Danny Clarke, and opportunities to win prizes.

We thought this was the perfect opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists and launch a children’s competition. The SEB is asking any children under the age of 12, to use their free sunflower seeds to design and conduct a science experiment.

Too late to order your free sunflowers? No problem! Use any other seeds of your favorite flower or plant and join in too. Some other flowers that are easy to grow include nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet peas, and pansies. If you fancy something edible why not try carrots, sweetcorn, beans, or tomatoes?

For this competition, we would like you to think of an experiment you can conduct with your sunflower seeds and plants. Over the 12 weeks of that, the Sunflower Challenge is running; you can conduct your experiment. You can then write a short article (no longer than 500 words) telling us all about your experiment and what exciting things you found out, it could even include pictures if you like! Email your competition entries to [email protected] by 5 pm on the 30th September 2021, or get in touch before then if you have any questions.

The winner will have their article published in the SEB Magazine and receive their choice of a GIANT Microbe© toy or science resources for your class at school. We welcome entries from individuals and groups - so you can do this challenge on your own, with your siblings, youth group, or class at school.

If you need some inspiration, check out the winners of our last Junior Science Writing Competition here.

How to start designing your own experiment?

Where should you begin when designing your own experiment? We have a fun video that explains what an experiment is, and how to design one. This is a great place to start:

The first thing you need to do is think about what question you will try and answer. Perhaps you have an idea that you think could explain something about the way a sunflower grows or a question you would like to answer. For example, you might think that sunflowers grow better in the light compared to the shade. Or maybe you would like to know if a sunflower that is watered every day will grow taller than one that is watered only once a week. Does the type of soil the seed is planted in make a difference to how many leaves a sunflower plant will grow?

Now you have your idea or question, you need to find out the answer. To do this you must set up an experiment. This is a scientific test where you keep everything the same apart from the one thing you want to test. For example, you might want to test if a sunflower grows taller in the sunlight compared to a sunflower that only has shade. First you would need to get two sunflower seeds that are the same in every way. Then you must plant them in the same conditions, this means the same size pots, the same amount of soil, and watering them at the same time each day. The only thing you would change would be to put one plant in direct sunlight, for example, on a windowsill, a green house or a sunny balcony or garden. The other would be in the shade, perhaps under a table, in a cupboard, or in a shady corner of the garden that never gets any light. Over the course of the 12-weeks, you would regularly measure how tall each sunflower grows. At the end of the 12-weeks you can check your results to see which flower grew the tallest.

Now all you need to do is write a short article telling us about how you set up your experiment, and what you found out. We can’t wait to read all your exciting entries!

If you know a child, school or youth group who would like to take part then please share the information with them. Good luck!