STEAM Learning Lab – Leaf Color Chemistry

Leaf Color Chemistry
For Ages 4-11

Looking outside we can see the first leaves starting to change color as fall begins. While kids understand that leaves changing colors (and falling off trees) is something that happens every autumn, and some may even understand that this happens from a lack of chlorophyll, this is a great experiment to really help them understand how leaves get their colors. It is also a great chance to set up a science lab with just a few materials you have at home and do an interesting experiment.

Materials:

  • 3-4 green leaves
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Coffee filters or printer paper (coffee filter will work best)
  • bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • A jar of large glass
  • Spoon
  • tape

Directions:

  1. Collect 3-4 green leaves from outside. They should be from the same type of tree(this experiment will work better with fresh leaves)
  2. Tear the leaves into tiny pieces and put them in your jar
  3. Smush the leaves with a spoon
  4. Pour rubbing alcohol over the leaves until they are just covered
  5. Smush the leaves some more-the liquid in the jar should look green now
  6. Cover the jar with plastic wrap
  7. Fill the bowl halfway full of hot water
  8. Let the jar sit in the hot water for an hour, occasionally picking it up and swishing the contents around
  9. Take the jar out of the hot water
  10. Remove the plastic wrap
  11. Cut a thin strip of coffee filter (or printer paper) and place in the jar so that the bottom of the paper is immersed in the jar and the top of the paper can reach the top of the jar.
  12. Tape the paper to the top of the jar
  13. Leave the paper for an hour. As time passes you will see bands of color appear on the coffee paper
  14. Remove the paper-look at the colors! There will be a band of prominent green but also another color-like yellow, red or orange. The bands show the true color of the leaves, and the color they will be in the fall. While the presence of chlorophyll will overwhelm the leaves real color, the chlorophyll will break down in the fall and the real color of the leaves will be revealed.


More Fun:

  • This experiment can predict the color leaves will turn in the fall. Try the experiment on groups of leaves that will turn different colors. For best results, keep leaves from the same type of tree in a jar together
  • Why are leaves different colors? Learn why with this fun chart!

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