Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Autumn Leaves

Beautiful colors are filling the scenery and I love it!  Here is an easy science project bound to captivate the curious child and adult, but hurry, time is short.

What you need:
small jars & lids (foil or plastic wrap work fine)
rubbing alcohol
paper coffee filters (I recommend white)
shallow pan
hot tap water
tape & pen

First, collect leaves.  Tear or chop the leaves into very small pieces and put them into small jars.  Add enough rubbing alcohol to each jar to cover the leaves.  Using a plastic knife or spoon, carefully chop and grind the leaves in the alcohol.

Cover the jars very loosely with lids, plastic wrap or foil.   Place the jars carefully into a shallow tray containing 1 inch of hot tap water.  Keep the jars in the water for at least a half-hour, longer if needed, until the alcohol has become colored (the darker the better).  Twirl each jar gently about every five minutes.  Replace the hot water if it cools off.

Cut a long thin strip of coffee filter paper for each of the jars and label it.  Remove the jars from the water and uncover.  Place a strip of filter paper into each jar so that one end is in the alcohol.  Bend the other end over the top of the jar and secure it with tape.

The alcohol will travel up the paper, bringing the colors with it.  After 30-90 minutes (or longer), the colors will travel different distances up the paper as the alcohol evaporates.  You should be able to see different shades of green, and possibly some yellow, orange or red, depending on the type of leaf.

Remove the strips of paper, let them dry and then tape them to a piece of plain paper.

**The only changes I would make is to use white paper coffee filters.  Mine were brown which masked some of the colors.  The effect will be stronger with white.  Also, if you are using leaves that have already changed colors, experiment times will be longer.

I got this project from Science Made Simple, a great site with many easy science projects for all ages.  Click here for a simple explanation on how and why leaves change colors.  I used this information to teach my young girls about leaves changing colors as we were preparing this science experiment.   There is nothing like teaching and learning with a hands-on experience!

1 comment:

The Crockett Family said...

This is great! It's the perfect activity for this cold, windy day. Thank You!