In this activity, children look for signs of autumn. They observe the annual change of seasons, and investigate why leaves of deciduous trees change color in the fall.
Doing the Activity
As autumn approaches, take children on a walk through a wooded area, schoolyard, local park, or neighborhood sidewalk to look for signs of fall. Point out the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees.
Have children find at least five of each and collect sample leaves. Create leaf rubbings by covering a leaf with a piece of paper and rubbing a crayon over it. The leaf’s margin and veins will appear. Use crayons to match the fall colors found in the leaves.
Encourage critical thinking by asking:
- What signs of fall can you see in the trees and on the ground?
- How many different leaf colors can you find?
- What will happen to the leaves?
Have children use the colorful fall leaves to create a picture.
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
With fall’s colder temperatures and shorter days, the cells of deciduous tree leaves begin to die. The dead cells block water and nutrients from the leaf. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves, breaks down and the yellow and red pigments begin to show through.
Native Americans had legends to explain the fall colors. Invite children to create their own imaginative stories.
Here’s another activity that you can use to discover why leaves change color in the fall.
- Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, ISBN: 0152053042
Follow the leaf man on his journey in this wonderfully illustrated book with images made of leaves.
Get the Full Activity
This family activity is adapted from Project Learning Tree’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide which can be obtained through an in-person professional development workshop or online course.
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