Leaf Learning

In the summer time, green plants seem to be everywhere. They are very pretty. They are also very busy making food and growing. Those green leaves are factories making food to power everything a green plant does.

Walk around your yard or neighborhood and look for different kinds of leaves. There are many different kinds. Do you find any that are smooth along their edges? Are there any that are pointy along the edge? Are there some that are fuzzy feeling? Are there some that feel like wax paper? Look for long narrow leaves on grass plants. Look for wide leaves on trees. Can you find leaves that are different sizes? How big is the largest one you can find? How small is the smallest one you find? 

Try counting all the leaves on one plant. Are there very many?

Green plants make their own food using energy from the sun. They get gases from the air, and water from the soil. Plants use water and the carbon dioxide from air to build sugar for food. The air comes into the plant through tiny holes in its leaves. The water gets into a plant through its roots. 

Put a small plastic bag over a leaf that is still growing on a plant. Come back in half an hour or so. What do you see inside the bag? Where do you think that came from? Do you think it has anything to do with the leaf taking in gases from the air and then giving gases back into the air? Do leaves ever lose water into the air? Why do you think so?

If you turn a leaf over, you may find it easier to see its veins. The leaf veins are a little like a person’s blood vessels. They help move liquid around inside the plant. In a plant, the liquid is called sap. Sap with water and other chemicals moves into the leaf where it is needed. Sap with food that has been made in the leaf moves out to other parts of the plant where it is needed.

You can make a picture of the veins of a leaf by putting a piece of paper over it and rubbing it with a crayon. This is called a leaf rubbing. Pick a leaf and try it.

Plants use sunlight to power food-making in their leaves. If a plant is growing in a shady spot, will it get as much sun energy as a plant growing out in a sunny spot? Does growing in the shade do anything to how big a plant’s leaves are? How can you find out?

Can you find any clues that leaves have been used as food by insects or other animals?

What other questions do you have about leaves? Can you figure out how to answer them by making your own observations?

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