Explore Leaves and Make Rainbow Leaf Prints
In this science activity, kids explore the parts of a leaf while doing an art project.
A leaf is defined as an above-ground plant organ that is specialized for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use energy from the sun to make food. Think of leaves as the food factory for a plant.
There are many different parts of the leaf. The blade is the broad, flat part of the leaf. Leaves are shaped this way so that more of the chlorophyll in the leaf can be exposed to the sunlight. The epidermis is the outer covering of the leaf. Sometimes this covering is thin and flimsy like most leaves we see in this area. Other times, the epidermis is waxy and thick, like the covering of a holly leaf. Veins look like little channels that run along the back of the leaf; they are small tubes that allow for the movement of sugar and water within the leaf to keep it alive. The petiole is the short stem that attaches the leaf to the main branch. Finally, trichomes are small hairs that can be on the underside of some leaves. These can help prevent water loss in a leaf by holding onto humidity.
There are 2 types of leaves: simple and compound. Simple leaves have an undivided blade (or only small indentations), while compound leaves have blades that are divided into smaller leaflets (a central vein with many leaflets stemming from it).
A botanist is a type of biologist who studies plants. There are many different types of botanists such as a plant physiologist who studies photosynthesis and how plants grow. There are also plant ecologists who study how plants interact with their environment.
- Large tree or plant leaf - 1 of this item per student
- Washable Paint Set - 1 of this item per class
- Paint brush - 1 of this item per student
- Sheets of white paper - 3 of this item per student
- Magnifying glass (optional) - 1 of this item per student
Go for a nature walk and collect lots of different kinds of leaves. Make sure to find at least one that is fairly large (5"+) to use for this project.
When you are finished collecting, examine all of your leaves together. Use a magnifying glass if you have one. How are the leaves the same? How are they different? Download and print this leaf picture diagram to use in identifying the parts of the leaves.
When you are finished examining your leaves, it's time to do art! Place a large leaf on a piece of paper; you may want to tape the leaf to the paper to hold it steady while you are painting. Dab different colors of paint all over the leaf. You don't need to cover the whole leaf with paint, but the more colorful the better. Be sure to get lots of paint on the stem and any other ridges on the leaf.
When you are finished painting, place the leaf unpainted side-down in the center of a clean sheet of paper. Now take another sheet of white paper and place it on top of the painted side and press down firmly. You should see ridges in the paper from where the bumpy parts of the leaf are pushing up. Be sure to press down all over the leaf.
When you are finished, carefully remove the top sheet of paper; this is your rainbow leaf print!