Trees shut down their systems for winter just like hibernating animals do. Food nutrients move slowly out of the leaves and into the tree's branches, trunk and roots. To ensure survival the tree sheds its leaves to prepare for freezing temperatures.
The green pigment of chlorophyll masks the other colors that are always present in leaves. As the chlorophyll disappears, various hues such as yellow and orange are uncovered. Yellow is most noticeable in aspen, birch, white ash, linden, beech, witch hazel, and hickory trees.
Also when temperatures drop, leaves produce a chemical called anthocyanin that accounts for the striking reds and purples often found in the sugar and red maples, northern red oaks, and sumacs.
A combination of warm, sunny days and cool but not freezing nights are ideal conditions for producing the most spectacular fall colors. The colors and their timing varies from one location to another depending on the combination of light and shade the tree receives. Moisture and chemicals contained in the leaves also affect the brilliance of autumn colors.
As leaves lose their color and dry out, they fall or are blown by the wind onto the ground. They help protect grasses and other plants by holding in warmth and moisture through the winter.
AUTUMN LEAF ACTIVITIES
Can't find any fall leaves? Make your own! Glue different colorful fabrics to both sides of several pieces of heavy paper. Cut leaf shapes from this. Put a string on each leaf. Tie the leaves to a small branch. Hang it where the leaves will flutter in a breeze.
You will need: a large piece of paper, crayons or markers, glue, and leaves (the more colorful the better). To make a tree outline, trace your hand (with fingers spread) and arm (up to the elbow) on a large piece of paper. Color the inside of the outline; that is the tree. Glue leaves onto the branches and around the base of the tree.
Aluminum Foil Leaves
Set out square pieces of aluminum foil and a variety of fall leaves. Place a leaf under a piece of foil. Gently press and rub the foil with your hand to get a leaf print. Glue each leaf print onto a piece of construction paper.
Place a variety of leaves (underside up to show the veins) under a piece of plain white or light colored paper. Using the sides of crayons (with the paper coverings peeled off), make rubbings of the leaves.
Collect some colorful fall leaves. Place the leaves between two sheets of paper and set a heavy book on top. After the leaves have dried, use to make a fall leaf wreath or other decoration.
Collect some colorful fall leaves. Arrange them on a sheet of wax paper, and cover with another sheet of wax paper. Adults: Put a sheet of newspaper on top and using an iron on the wool setting, gently iron the two pieces of wax paper together. After ironing, you can cut around the individual leaves or attach the entire collage to a hanger of some kind and hang or tape the leaves in your window. They should stay colorful all year.
Go on a fall nature walk and pick up items that have fallen off trees (leaves, twigs, nuts, pinecones, pine needles, etc.). Arrange your findings in a shoebox or create a collage by gluing them to a poster board.
AUTUMN LEAF SNACKS
Leaf Cookies: Obtain a leaf shaped cookie cutter and have the children help you make leaf cookies. Decorate them with red, orange, yellow and brown frosting.
Leaf Jello: Using a leaf shaped cookie cutter, make leaves from yellow, red and orange gelatin.
AUTUMN LEAF BOOKS
AUTUMN: AN ALPHABET ACROSTIC, by Steven Schnur. (An alphabetical listing of autumn's sights, sounds, and emotions is recorded in brief blocks of text; read vertically, the first letter of each line spells out the seasonal word being described)
AUTUMN IDEA BOOK, by Karen Sevaly. (A creative idea book for the elementary teacher.)
CLIFFORD'S FIRST AUTUMN, by Norman Bridwell. (Clifford the Small Red Puppy leaps into autumn when he experiences the changing of the seasons for the first time, and he joyfully sniffs the falling leaves and enjoys the wonderful colors.)
CRAFTS TO MAKE IN THE FALL, by Kathy Ross. (Featuring symbols of the fall season, this book includes 29 craft projects--including a changing tree puppet, a soft sculpture pumpkin, a Columbus Day hat, and cornucopia place cards.)
EVERY AUTUMN COMES THE BEAR. by Jim Arnosky. (Follow the autumn activities of a bear on the rugged land behind a farm as he gets ready for a long winter's nap.)
EVERYTHING FOR FALL, by Kathy Charner. (A complete activity book for teachers of young children: activities for September, October, and November.)
I AM A LEAF, by Jean Marzollo. (Easy-to-read text and bright cut-paper illustrations describe the life cycle of a leaf and explore its many functions.)
LOOK WHAT I DID WITH A LEAF! by Morteza E. Sohi. (Learn how to create pictures of animals using leaves.)
RED LEAF, YELLOW LEAF, by Lois Ehlert. (A simple narrative celebrating the life of a sugar maple tree is extended with excellent notes on the tree's parts as well as instructions for planting and caring for it.)
WHEN AUTUMN COMES, by Robert Maas. (Beautifully composed color photos are combined with a simple text to portray typical events of a New England autumn in the country.)
AUTUMN LEAF WEBSITES
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