Why Do Leaves Change Color

Contributed by Kat Weidman and Abbi Woolcott, students at SUNY Fredonia

This topic was interesting to us because students would be able to connect it to what they can actually see outside. In order to teach students, one of the first things a teacher should do is connect content to prior/background knowledge about the topic.  

Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) 

We chose the Investi-gator (Northern Research Station) issue because it includes information about leaves and their color change, how ozone affects tree growth, and soil activity in the winter.  

cover page for the Natural Inquirer article "Are You Red-dy to Change?" with text and an image of the scientist who conducted the researchWe looked at “Are You Red-dy to Change?” and an associated article called “Why do Leaves Change Color?” This article was very reader friendly, easy to follow and easy to understand. If we wanted to teach a unit on leaves changing colors, we can teach the unit in four mini lessons. There are also visuals provided at the end of different leaves, which is a helpful resource, especially if you don’t teach in an area where colored leaves are available, or if you’re teaching this lesson in the winter and there is snow on the ground instead of leaves. While reading this article, we liked that the beginning was engaging and there are opportunities for conversations to be had with the students about what they think photosynthesis is, or what they do in the summer that could make them hot and what they try to do to keep cool.  

Elementary GLOBE Seasons Module 

Elementary GLOBE includes storybooks. We focused on the Seasons module storybook called “The Mystery of the Missing Hummingbird” by Becca Hatheway and Kerry Zarlengo. The students in the story are worried about why they are no longer seeing the hummingbirds in the garden and the teacher takes this opportunity to launch an investigation of the four seasons. Throughout the school year, students make observations about the seasons and the hummingbirds that they see outside. For example, the students observed that in Autumn, the hummingbirds go away, leaves on trees change colors, plants lose their flowers, and it's cooler outside. 

student activity sheet for the Elementary GLOBE activity "The Colors of the Seasons" with boxes for students to identify items found in nature during different seasonsElementary GLOBE also includes activities for each storybook; one of the activities is called “The Colors of the Seasons.” Students use a color chart to make observations about each season. The goal of this activity is for students to understand how the colors in nature relate to seasonal changes in the environment. In order to complete this activity, teachers will have to read the GLOBE storybook that it corresponds with and also have assembled the color packets for students to use for the activity. This is a science activity that will be done throughout the entirety of the school year and students will be going outside to make observations about the changes in nature.  

GLOBE and Natural Inquirer Connections 

The article “Why do Leaves Change Color” and the GLOBE resources are connected through a central idea that as seasons change, so does nature around us. For example, in the summer leaves are green and when fall comes around the leaves change to red, orange, and yellow; hummingbirds are around in summer and when autumn comes, hummingbirds leave for the season.  

In order to use these connected resources in the classroom, as educators we will implement them into a series of lessons about the seasons. It would be ideal to use activities from GLOBE and then incorporate the article mini-lessons within the entirety of the unit. Using the GLOBE activity “The Colors of the Seasons” where students observe nature around them throughout the school year would be the most effective way to implement these resources into the classroom science curriculum.  

GLOBE and NGSS Connections: Disciplinary Core Ideas 

From the Elementary GLOBE Teacher Implementation Guide 

  • LS1.C Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

  • LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems 

  • LS4.D Biodiversity and Humans 

Image Captions (top to bottom) 

  • Cover for the Natural Inquirer article “Are You Red-dy to Change?” 

  • Student activity page for the Elementary GLOBE activity “Colors of the Seasons” 

About the Authors 

My name is Kat Weidman and I am a senior at SUNY at Fredonia in the Childhood Inclusive Education program. Throughout my career as a teacher candidate, I have had many opportunities for classroom experiences; I had a placement over Zoom, in an after-school tutoring program, at Erie 2 BOCES, and in Hamburg working in a reading intervention specialist classroom. My name is Abbi Woolcott and I am also a senior at SUNY at Fredonia. My major is Childhood Education with a concentration in Mathematics. Throughout my time at SUNY at Fredonia, I have had many classroom experiences; I had a placement for two weeks in a fifth grade classroom at Dunkirk School 5, I have tutored math for three semesters at NCCS, I tutored a students in English, at Dunkirk School 3, over Zoom, and my most recent placement was in a first grade classroom in Dunkirk School 5. 

Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by USDA Forest Service Eastern Region (Agreement no. 20-PA-11090100-026). Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA Forest Service.

This blog post is part of the GLOBE and the Natural Inquirer Crosswalk Project. Other blog posts are available on the U.S. GLOBE Teacher Resources page

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