All About Leaves - The Observation November 10 2009

Observation and Classification are important scientific skills - what better way to practice than to use what we already know: LEAVES!

To complete this activity, photocopy the Leaf Observation Grid for each student. If you have included many different kinds of leaves, consider making double-sided copies for more room.

Build A Leaf Collection

For this activity, you’re going to need help from your students with leaf collecting. Give each student a gallon sized storage or freezer bag in which to bring back a variety of leaves. An important detail – LEAVES MUST BE DRY! Otherwise, they’ll smoosh together and start decomposing, which will not help. The other rule I give them is that they must include at least five different leaves; I often run a contest with a small prize for the person who collects 1) the most leaves and 2) the biggest variety of leaves.

As you sort through the many different kinds of leaves, choose about ten total for students to observe and classify. Number these leaves from one to ten, and have students identify them this way on the Leaf Observation Grid under "Leaf."

In the second column of the grid, they need to write down either a description of the color of the leaf, or match it using crayons or colored pencils, mixing colors if necessary. The next column is shape, and you may want to consider directing them to sketch a picture of the leaf. The third and fourth columns will require them to find the information in one or more of the books you've provided, and the last column is for any additional facts they know or find about these certain leaves.

The easiest way for students to fill out their grids is to have collections of leaves and books at each tablegroup. Then students or collections can be rotated around in order to complete the grid.

Identify Leaves With Books

In my post All About Leaves: Getting Started, there's a list of books to pick up from the local or school library. Some of these will help with not only identifying leaves, but also providing information about geographical areas as well as additional facts. To make identifying leaves a bit easier, I found this page of Illustrations of Fall Leaves from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Not Enough Books? Use the Web!

There are a few really good resources for kids on the web that are all about leaves. I chose my two favorites for this activity. First, the Environmental Education for Kids (EEK!) website has very helpful pages entitled A Tree’s True Colors. There are links near the end that help identify common fall leaves.

One of the most fun and useful tools I’ve found is The Leaf Key. It was originally a 4-H project for identifying leaves of Virginia trees, but it will probably work for leaves your area. It would be ideal for your students to have a few leaves to use with this resource as they become familiar with it. To start, press the link ”I’ve Got My Leaf, Let’s Get Started!” Then using the characteristics of the leaf you’re trying to identify, the system breaks down what kind of leaf it could be.

End With Art

You will need leaves for a science experiment and a couple of art projects in the coming days. However, if you have an abundance of collected leaves, consider giving them to your students to make leaf collages to go along with today's leaf observation. Then post them inside or outside your classroom for a quick - and beautiful - fall bulletin board!