Why Do Leaves Change Color?

An Autumn Nature Lesson
Autumn is my favorite season. Hot apple cider, boots, scarves, gloves, pinecone and acorn hunting… there is just so much I love about Fall. My favorite autumn phenomenon however is the changing of the leaves. I can literally stay outside for hours and enjoy the beauty of colorful leaves on the tress, gently falling and floating on the autumn breeze. Children often find this a magical and fun event to enjoy before they begin to wonder why this happens. Is your little explorer becoming curious about leaves changing color in the fall? Why they begin to fall off the trees? Turn that curiosity into a grand adventure with this lesson plan.

Autumn Leaf Expedition by A.N. Shelton
A Natural Science Lesson for Kids

Developing Subjects
Math: measurement and counting
Writing: recording data and expedition highlights
Memory: recalling where and how leaves were found on expedition
Science: observation, comparison, and conclusion
A Step Further with Creativity: help your explorer create a leaf collage, garland, wreath, fairy house, or other art piece.
  • collection container for leaves (example: basket or shoe box)
  • magnifying lens
  • field journal
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • crayons or colored pencils
  • Bonus Materials: glue, paint, string, sticks, cardboard, recycled stash

Take explorers on a nature hike and let them collect leafs of their own. Avoid dried out leaves, as they will be brittle and more difficult to study.

Map It Out: Want to add on to the experience for older kids? Have them map out their route and mark where they collected their leaves.


After your explorers have collected their leaves, let them observe with their eyes, hands, and magnifying lens. Sort the leaves by tree type, color, or size.

Applying Math: Measure width and length of various leaves. Count how many leaves were collected. Which color leaf was least collected? Which color was most collected?

Encourage them to record their observations and experiences of the expedition in their field journals.  They can draw their leaves in color, note leaf measurements, and color data. Develop their writing and memory skills as they describe their expedition and leaves collected.

Lesson Tools & Information
As the months grow colder, trees grow thin layers of cells, walling off water access to their leaves. Without water in the leaves, pigments are transformed and broken down, altering the color of the leaves. On your next trip to the library, you can probably find books on why seasons change. These are great learning tools for your little explorers to research with. Want to take some tools out on your expedition? We now have Pocket FieldCards™ available in the shop with more information on leaves changing color, different types of pigments, and how sugar and sap are affected in the leaves.
Why Leaves Change Color from Environmental Science and Forestry
Autumn Leaf Color from Wikipedia

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