Week at a Glance:
- FREE printable science experiment: Why Do Leaves Change Colors?
- step-by-step directions with photos
- fall and leaf books for kids
Why Do Leaves Change Colors?
- several leaves from 3-4 different trees, shrubs or plants
- small glasses or jars
- paper coffee filters
- rubbing alcohol (requires adult supervision)
- masking tape
- plastic spoon
Step 1: Cut Leaves into Small Pieces
- Carefully cut leaves from one tree into small pieces.
- Place the leaf pieces in a jar and label.
- Repeat for each leaf type collect.
Step 2: Cover Leaf Pieces with Rubbing Alcohol
- Requires adult supervision.
Step 3: Mash Leaves with Spoon
- Mash leaves with a spoon or a muddler. You may see the alcohol slowly begin to change color.
- This step takes a bit of work to see the color pigment release from the leaves.
Step 4: Place Jars in Hot Water or Let Sit Overnight
- Cover the jars and place in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
- Or let the jars sit overnight.
- You can muddle the leaves again after they soak in order to release more color.
Step 5: Cut Coffee Filters into Strips
Step 6: Soak Filter Strips in Leaf Mixture
- Place the end of one coffee filter in each jar.
- Soak at least 8 hours or overnight.
Step 7: Remove the Filter Strips
- Lay the coffee filters on a piece of paper or paper towel to dry.
- The different pigments such as green, red, orange and yellow will separate and tick to the coffee filters.
- The pigments may travel up the coffee filters making band of colors.
Science Journal Entry, Why Do Leaves Change Colors, page 1
MacGyver, age 11
Step 8: Record Your Findings
Helpful Facts -
- Why do trees grow leaves? Trees grow leaves to conduct photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, the celsl in leaves turn sunlight into the sugars and starches trees need for food.
- Why are leaves green? Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives leaves their green color. All trees have chlorophyll because they need it to soak in sunlight for photosynthesis.
- Why do leaves fall? If leaves didn’t fall, they would freeze during the winter because they contain water.
- How do leaves fall? To shed its leaves, a tree will form barriers of cells between its branches and the stems of the leaves. These barriers keep water and other nutrients from entering the leaves, so chlorophyll production stops.
- What happens to the leaves when mixed with rubbing alcohol? Chromatography is the process of separating different chemical compounds. The alcohol allowed the chlorophyll in the leaves to break down, mimicking how chlorophyll production in leaves stops during the fall. The process reveasl other pigments in the leaves that are usually hidden.
- We adapted our leaf experiment from Connections Academy.
Print this FREE Science Experiment: Why Do Leaves Change Colors
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