By Life is a Garden – www.lifeisagarden.co.za
Autumn is a colourful time for trees and a curious invitation for all young gardeners to get involved. Do your children also enjoy rummaging around in leaves, collecting them, and admiring their unique hues? If so, here’s a DIY kids experiment that investigates the science of chlorophyll and answers the question of how and why leaves change colour. Are you ready for some fun in the garden? Let’s go!
What’s so cool about leaves anyway?
For starters, leaves are part of Mother Nature’s highly intelligent network of oxygen (O2) providers, making them an essential service to life on Earth. Through photosynthesis, leaves turn light energy into food for plants to grow. Using their pores, or stomata, leaves absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and then release clean, crisp O2 for us to breath.
Chloro-me, chloro-you, chloro-phyll?
Owing to changes in the daylight and temperature during Autumn, the process of photosynthesis and the amount of chlorophyll in leaves is altered. Chlorophyll is the chemical that makes leaves green, so with less sunlight for photosynthesis, it’s only natural that some changes in colour are expected. The absence of chlorophyll is what results in the gorgeous display of sunset-hued leaves this time of year.
An experiment awaits!
You will need:
- A few glass jars;
- A few coffee filters;
- Various colours of autumn leaves;
- Surgical Spirits (available at pharmacies);
- A spoon for mixing, and
- container for gathering.
Leaves at the ready:
Unleash your kids in the garden or park to search for as many different autumn-coloured leaves they can find. Equip them with a container to carry their findings.
- Group their leaf treasures by colour. Once sorted, smash/crumple/tear each group of leaves into pieces and then place each pile into a separate jar.
- Pour the rubbing alcohol into each jar until the leaf pieces are completely covered.
- Use a spoon and continue mixing the leaves inside your jar until the rubbing alcohol changes colour.
- Using a coffee filter, make a cone and then place the pointed tip down into the smooshed leaf/rubbing alcohol mixture. Make sure the tip of the cone rests inside the mixture.
- Let the jars chill for about a day, checking up to see magical Mother Nature and science at work!
- Children will see, with their very own eyes, in real life, how the colours of the leaves begin to separate and travel up the coffee filter. Observe the absence of chlorophyll in all its glorious hues!
- Enjoy this investigative, hands-on experiment with your young ones. And let us continue our quest to inspire and educate the new generation of gardeners. After all, our Life is a Garden, and we want our kids to have one too! Do not forget to visit your local garden centre for new autumn babies to plant and sow, for pots, beds, and baskets.