Fall is such a beautiful time of year with the air getting crisper and the leaves changing so many vibrant colors. Have your children ever asked you, “Why do the leaves turn colors?” What a perfect time to inject a little Science into your child’s life by answering that question!
First, your child should know that the leaves make food for the tree by using the chlorophyll in them (the green color), to mix with carbon dioxide, water and light. When the days get shorter and there is less light, the leaves stop making food and the green chlorophyll disappears. Then we begin to see the yellow and orange colors that have always been in the leaves but not visible because the green predominates. Bright purples and reds are caused by some of the glucose or “food” having been trapped in the leaves. And brown is caused by wastes left in the leaves. All this leaves us with a beautiful array of colorful fall foliage!
You might want to pick up some leaves and look at the veins on them to see how food travels to the different parts of the leaf. Leaf rubbings can be made by putting a piece of paper over a leaf and rubbing it with a crayon which is a great way to enhance the veins and a fun art project, too.
You can continue the theme by explaining the life cycle of a tree and how it drops its leaves, stays dormant all winter, and comes back to life in spring with new buds, new leaves and more chlorophyll to make food for the tree. Are there any ways in which we become “dormant” in the winter? A little less exercise, feeling sleepier, wanting to snuggle with a good book? Ask your children how the season affects them!
Fall is also a great time to talk about why the days get shorter and the nights get longer. As our earth rotates around the sun, it does so on a slant on its axis. The northern part of the earth is slanting away from the sun so we get less sunlight in the daytime. Try demonstrating this by having one child stand in the center (as the sun) while your other child walks around the sun slanting in one direction – your children will find it fun and educational! Ask your children, “How do our lives change with less daylight?” (Less time to play outdoors/using more electricity for light and heat, etc.) This will encourage them to see how Science fits into their own worlds.
Carving pumpkins is another way to see how Science works. First we harvest the pumpkin from the vine in the fall. Then when we open it up, we see the “meat” inside that can be used as food for us or for animals. The seeds are another interesting part of the pumpkin, making sure that more pumpkins will grow next year – and so the cycle of life starts again. You can also bake the seeds and have a tasty & healthy snack!
Enjoy the Science of Fall!!