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Ever wonder why leaves change color? We did some fun autumn nature study to go along with this lovely book Linnea’s Almanac this month. Since we are in the midst of beautiful autumn weather, what better than a study on leaves?? We learned about leaves changing color with a fun experiment and made some beautiful autumn leaf crowns!
First, about the book: Linnea’s Almanac by Christina Bjork… I LOVE this sweet little book. Linnea is a little girl who loves learning all about gardens and nature. She learned from her neighbor friends who are expert gardeners. She goes through each month of the year and shares some fun things about what is happening in nature and creative activities that you can do with nature. We love to look through it for ideas to learn and play in nature each month. October’s entry teaches how to make a leaf crown and talks about why leaves change color. This was just perfect for our autumn nature studies!
So do you know what leaves change color? Leaves are green because of the chlorophyll in them. Leaves actually have lots of color in them, but during the warmer months of the year, all that is seen is this brighter green. When it gets colder, the chlorophyll breaks down and moves into the lower parts of the tree to nourish it during the winter. After the tree takes what it needs from the leaves, the color is different, then they loosen and fall off.
The book, Why Do Leaves Change Colors? by Betsy Maestro is such a fun one to go along with this experiment, too!
We did an experiment to see what colors are in a the leaves. You can see the different pigments by breaking them down and separating them with chromatography. Chromatography is the separation of mixtures into individual components using energy (heat) and alcohol.
Leaf Chromatography Experiment:
We got 4 different types and colors of leaves to test. We ripped them into little pieces and put them into small jars. Then cover the leaves with a small amount of rubbing alcohol.
Place the jars into a pan of HOT water. Shake them around every few minutes to help release the pigment. I kept refreshing the hot water to keep it hot. We left it for about an hour- until you can see the alcohol changing color.
Then, use strips of coffee filter paper and place them into the liquid with the end in the alcohol and the other end taped to the edge of the jar to keep it in place. Let it sit for an hour or two for the color to be absorbed up into the paper strips. The colors will separate and it will show the varying shared of color in the leaves. It’s pretty cool to see what happens!
We also had tons of fun with our leaf crowns. My kids loved making these! It is very easy to do and they are so cute!
To make them you need 15-20 leaves deepening on the size of the leaves and your child. You want leaves that are still soft and flexible, not dried yet. You know the big thick end on the leaves? You need to start by cutting that large end off, but leave the stems as long as possible.
Fold the first leaf in half. Take the second one and poke it through both layers of the first leaf and wrap it around the first one. Keep going in the same way until you have enough leaves to wrap around your child’s (or your) head. Connect the last leaf to the first leaf in the same way. Then use one more stem or small stick to secure it a little more tightly.
I hope you are enjoying this beautiful season as much as we are!