Here Comes Fall!

In this activity students will conduct an experiment called chromatography to see the different colors in a leaf, and discuss why leaves change color in the fall. In addition to this experiment, students will use fall colors to create marbled leaves.

This activity addresses:

  • Following directions
  • Sensory experience
  • Science skills
  • Science of bubbles
  • Alternative methods of access

What you need:

  • BIGmack or LITTLEmack
  • Jelly Bean
  • My Art Spinnerr
  • Battery Device Adapter
  • Adapted scissors
  • Leaves
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Small glasses/jars (baby food)
  • Coffee filters/filter paper
  • Hot water
  • Pencils/sticks (one per student)
  • Shaving cream
  • Baking pan
  • Finger paint
  • Construction paper


1. Cut out leaf shapes from the construction paper.
2. Record the word “Autumn” on a BIGmack or LITTLEmack.
3. Record “red”, “orange”, and “brown” on BIGmack or LITTLEmack so students can choose their colors.

What to do for chromatography:

1. Students can use the adapted scissors to cut a leaf into small pieces, and place them into the small glasses.
2. Older students can use the scientific method and develop a hypothesis as to what is going to happen.
3. Teacher adds a small amount of rubbing alcohol to the glass - enough to cover the leaves is fine. The alcohol will slowly change color from the chlorophyll in the leaves. To speed this up, place the glasses in a hot water bath.
4. Students can use the adapted scissor to cut strips from the coffee filters.
5. Attach the coffee filter strips to a pencil. Place pencil over glass so that strips hang down into the alcohol. After 30 – 90 minutes, bands of colors will be noticeable on the coffee filters.

What to do for the art project:

1. Place shaving cream on a table or in a baking pan and put fall colored finger paint (red, orange, brown) on top of the shaving cream.
2. Allow students to swirl the paint around a little (not too much that the colors mix) and add glitter or other decorations.
3. Place leaf cut outs or construction paper on the shaving cream.
4. Students that cannot participate with the shaving cream and finger paint can paint their leaves using the My Art Spinner and Battery Device Adapter with a Jelly Bean.
5. Once the paper is face down in the shaving cream lift it off, and scrape any excess shaving cream from the paper. Allow them to dry.
6. Students can then play in the leftover shaving cream to draw pictures or practice writing.

Scripts for activity:

1. “Very soon the season will be changing from summer to fall. Another name for fall is autumn. Does anyone know what happens to the leaves on the trees in fall?”
2. “Do you know why the leaves change in the fall? Plants have pigments in them that determine their color. Leaves have the pigment chlorophyll in them that make them green as well as another other pigments called carotenoids. Chlorophyll makes the leaves green while carotenoids can make the leaves yellow, red, or orange.”
3. “When the weather is warm the tree produces a lot of chlorophyll which is why the leaves are green. As the season changes from summer to fall the weather cools down and the tree produces less chlorophyll, this is when we get to see the colors from the carotenoids.”
4. “Today we are going to perform an experiment that will hopefully show us some other colors in our leaves, besides the green we see when we look at them.”
5. Students can then play in the leftover shaving cream to draw pictures or practice writing.