Our school is adopting the Next Generation Science Standards for the first year, and it is definitely keeping me on my toes. I have been learning all kinds of fabulous science right along with my 1st grade friends. One of our first standards for the year is exploring patterns in seasons and sunlight. With the start of Fall last Wednesday, it was the perfect time to talk about the shorter days and longer nights of fall, as well as, answer one of our most-pressing 1st grade questions - "Why do leaves change colors?" We began our Fall and Leaf study by collecting leaves from our own homes and sharing them with our friends.
The afternoon before I commissioned my Leaf Hunters, we enjoyed We're Going on a Leaf Hunt together. Put to the familiar tune of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", "Leaf Hunt" it was a simple and fun way to introduce many different types of trees and leaves, as well as, put our learning in context.
The next day, we reflected on our leaf exploration and spent time comparing the leaves we brought in. Many of the leaves were green, but some were starting to change colors...so we had green leaves, yellow leaves, brown leaves, and a few leaves with faint hints of red. Looking at our leaves, we asked - "Why are the leaves different colors? Why does the color of a leaf change in the Fall?"
Learning about predictions in reading, we shared our ideas about why leaves might change colors. The friends below were fairly confident of their thinking and shared their ideas with the class. FRIENDS - 1st GRADERS ARE UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS.
Why 3 cups?? Well, I was not sure if this would actually work...so I figured if I tried 3 different sets of leaves *hopefully* one set would offer a result. (Note - I piecemealed this experiment from 3-4 different website and cut out all the bells and whistles. I did not have access to ceramic bowls, hot water, plastic wrap, etc. I did not want to run to Walmart and used what I had in my school closet.)
To each cup, I added just enough rubbing alcohol to cover all the leaves. I did do this part of the experiment myself because I did not have goggles or gloves for my 1st grade friends. Although rubbing alcohol isn't likely to kill one of my 1st graders, I would much rather err on the side of caution.
After the rubbing alcohol was added, I mashed the leaves in each cup with a plastic spoon. While I was mashing each cup, we sang some of our favorite songs (Learning Station Days of the Week, Twin Sisters Learning our Short Vowels, Ron Brown Nouns and Verbs)...which means I mashed each cup for approximately 2 minutes. By the end of the mashing, the rubbing alcohol should be a light green. This is the most important step because it releases the pigments so they can travel through the coffee filter!
We cut a long strip from the middle of a coffee filter and taped/wrapped it around a pencil. We then put the paper strips into our leaf/alcohol mixture!
After 5 hours of hanging, these were our final chromatography strips! Amazingly, all three of our strips actually worked - woohoo! (Note - of course this only happened because I did 3 samples. Had I done 1 sample, the experiment would have most definitely failed.)
For a better visual, we laid them flat on a white piece of paper and put it under the Document Camera. Then, students picked one of the strips to illustrate and describe in their journals.Why Do Leaves Change Colors by Betsy Mastero. This is a book perfect for primary learners - lots of science and explanations but not enough to overwhelm or confuse!
This was a simple way to make a huge impact. Plus, it made our world a little more magical - who doesn't love knowing that leaf colors are 'hiding' until the onset of Fall, when our world becomes considerably more colorful!
What are your go-to science lessons for demystifying fall? I'd love to hear your ideas!