Changing color of fall leaves

Why do tree leaves change color in the fall? It's a common question of curious kids (and adults). Why do the leaves of trees like the Sweetgum, Oak, Maple and Gingko go from hues of green to brilliant hues of yellow, gold, rust, orange, and red? It all comes down to pigments. Pigments are the color-holding (and color-reflecting) organelles in cells. Pigments are like little color sheets of paper, but tiny microsopic stacks of colorful paper that gives cells and who tissues the colors we see with our eyes.

In plants, leaves have chlorophyll pigments that give them a green color. But when the weather changes (it gets colder, the days get shorter), the chlorophyll's job slows down. This slowing down prompts a change (within the cells of the leaves themselves) causing the normall green reflecting chlorophyl to reflect different colors like yellow, orange, and red instead.

As Fall Foilage colors peak in the comin days, why don't you and your family (or youth group) go out and take a closer look at the beautiful colors. Thanks to Science Buddies at Bring Science Home, you can Find the Hidden Colors of Autumn Leaves! It's one of their weekly recommended easy-to-do-at-home that's super fun and engaging for all ages.

And this project is actually a chemistry challenge. Using readily available household supplies, you can learn about pigments and colors of autumn leaves. All the information is provided in the article - supplies, instructions, event the background science information to explain it. I really can't add anything else to the activity.....but maybe you could intergrate an art-related activity during the wait period in the activity. (There's a wait time for one of the chemistry experiments).

So here are my recommendations for integrating the Art and Science of Autumn Leaves.

1. Leaf rubbings (This is my most favorite nature-related craft activity).

fall leaf rubbing

Materials: crayons, leaves, paper

fall leaf rubbing methods

Lay the paper over the leaf, secure the paper, then color across the paper

fall leaf rubbing

I recommend lying the crayon flat on top of the paper and coloring. You will notice the vein patterns appearing.

Be Creative. Use unique colors to trace the leaf's shape and vein pattern.

leaf rubbings, DNLee

Your final product: In the end, you end up with beautiful, creative colorful recreations of leaf shapes.

2. Creative writing. Write a poem - a haiku, limerick, or sonnet that explains tree physiology and role of pigments in leaf colors. Or how about creating fun stories where you describe a perfect fall day? Let the colorful fall foilage inspire you and your kids. Let your imagination run wild and include the science you've learned in the narratives.

What's your favorite fall foilage color?