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Autumn Leaf Experiment-Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

Why do leaves change color in the fall?

This is a great chance to use phenomena to start a science lesson.  Show them a photo…and ask Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Why do leaves change color in the fall?
Ask them to generate other questions about fall colors:

Why do some locations get more vivid colors than others?
Why do some trees do this and others do not?
Why do leaves fall from the tree?
Why are some years in the same location different in the number of fall colors from other years?

To start with answering these questions I would begin with a great inquiry-based science lesson. Students love this colorful experiment.

Pick some leaves that are still green from a deciduous tree, like maple or aspen that will turn colors in the fall.
maple leaves
Next, tear the leaves up into bits and grind a few against something to really mush them up.  Place in a glass jar and cover with rubbing alcohol. Kids love fall science activities.

Autumn leaf experiment

Cover with foil and place the jar in a cup of hot water.

Autumn leaf experiment

Next, attach some paper towel strips to a pencil or stick with a piece of tape.

prepare for the lab
Place the end inside the jar and observe.

autumn science

You will see greens and other shades of greens and even some yellows and oranges.
autumn leaves
The next thing I do is have students read some nonfiction text or watch a presentation to find out more about the scientific process.  Students love this amazing science activity.

I have them write up their experiment results and understanding in their interactive notebook. I also have them place some leaves in the interactive notebook.  Securing them down with clear packing tape helps them keep their color.
beautiful fall maple leaves

This resource includes the Lab, Slide show, Nonfiction Text, and response pages.  This one is for middle school students.  The reading passage is scientific and appropriate for 6th-8th grade.
Autumn leaf experiment and reading passages



For 3rd-5th grade students, this unit includes the lab, response pages and slide show. Fall Leaf Experiment With Slide Show and Interactive Notebook This resource Does Not Include the Nonfiction Passage for 6th-8th grade students.
Great activity for fall
autumn leaf activity for 6th grade

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Autumn leaf experiment

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