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Leafy experiments

November 14th, 2003 · 1 Comment


I’ve been experimenting with leaves in many ways. I’ve been trying to take pictures of the lovely autumn hues, to capture the clear colors. This maple tree was begging for a photo, leaning its yellow leaves over a chain link fence, so I tried….

Looking around on the Web, I found this page from Canadian Gardening on line with some great fall leafy projects for children.

I tried the homemade version of Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC, as we knew in biochem class) using leaves (freshly picked), alcohol, baby food jar, pencil and coffee filter. It was fun to see the green (cholorophyll) and yellow (carotenoid) hues sort out on the paper, flowing up from the bits of maple leaf in the jar. I tried it with a few red leaves but it wasn’t as clear, perhaps our dry weather is to blame:”For truly spectacular displays, trees need lots of rain during the growing season, followed by an autumn with warm days and cool nights.” How fun to find the hidden colors, waiting for the green chlorophylls to break down and disappear. The site gives a good little explanation of leaf chemistry too.

We also did some fun leaf prints on rocks, although it was messier than I imagined. Japanese maple tree leaves made the best prints. Fern didn’t work so well!

I had a harder time trying to make the leaf skeletons but perhaps I didn’t have a mature enough maple leaf to cook. It mostly made a thinner leaf, like a crispy stained glass version.

We’ve also been enjoying making leaf rubbings with colored pencils. Again, Japanese maple leaves work well, although any kind of leaf with strong veins and ridges will make a nice design.

Yesterday the girls made crowns, gathering together leaves and sticks to be put into a pipe cleaner tiara. With maple gold and oranges and pieces of cedar on the sides of their heads and hairs, the girls looked like a creature from Shakespeare, nature girl for sure.

It’s a lot of fun just to look at all the leaves and hues of the season and marvel at how it all happened.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Nov 16, 2003 at 7:49 am

    Emily and I gathered pretty leaves yesterday afternoon. In contrast to your incredible industry with yours, we just left ours on the kitchen counter. i think we’ll try some rubbings! Thanks for the great ideas.