Awesome Autumn!

I love fall. I love the crisp air, the changing leaves, and just about anything pumpkin scented or pumpkin flavored. But most of all, I love all the fun fall activities. Fall is the perfect time for hands-on science and art. Read on for some of my favorite activities and terrific books that compliment them.
Pumpkin Boy

Leaves

Leaf Books 1
Leaf Books 2
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Leaves by Grace Hansen

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert 

My Leaf Book by Monica Wellington

Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy by Martha E.H. Ruthstad

We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
  • Leaf Chromatography – How do leaves change color? The shortened days of autumn mean less sunlight for the leaves and the chlorophyll that makes the leaves green begins to disappear revealing beautiful fall colors. Can’t wait for the leaves to change? You can remove the chlorophyll from leaves to discover their hidden colors. To do so, collect leaves from a variety of trees (5-10 leaves per tree), keeping each variety separate. Then tear, crush, and mash the leaves up and place each variety into a separate container (baby food jars, jam jars, plastic containers, whatever you have on hand). Pour isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol over the mashed leaves and then cover each container with a lid or plastic wrap to prevent the alcohol from evaporating. Place the containers into a shallow dish or bowl of hot water. The hot water will help increase the breakdown of the chlorophyll. Let sit for about an hour, then remove the lids or plastic wrap, roll coffee filters into a cone shape and set one in each container. As the liquid travels up the coffee filter it separates all the colors that were inside the leaf. Each color in the leaf will separate at a different rate creating rings of color around the coffee filters. Observe color changes throughout the day. Allow to sit overnight for best results. 
  • Leaf rubbings or prints—Collect some leaves and then place a piece of paper on top of them. Use the side of a crayon to create rubbings. Or place fabric over the leaves and use a hammer to make leaf prints. You could also paint leaves and press them onto the paper or fabric.
  • Leaf Lantern—Use Mod Podge or another decoupage glue to affix leaves to a jar. Allow to dry and then place a battery-operated candle or tea light inside the jar for a pretty autumn nightlight!
  • Leaf Art—Use leaves to create images, such as people or animals, inspired by Lois Ehlert’s book Leaf Man.

Pumpkins


Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbel

Pumpkins by Ken Robbins

Fall Pumpkins: Orange and Plump by Martha E.H. Ruthstad

Pumpkins by Erica L. Shores

Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz

  • Pumpkin Playdough—A seasonal and delicious-smelling twist on a fun favorite! Combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, and a small jar of pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together 2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons oil. Add food coloring to give the playdough an orange tint. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir thoroughly. Knead dough to reach the desired consistency. Store in an airtight container.
  • Floating Pumpkins—Do pumpkins float? Yes, they do! Children are often amazed to see a big pumpkin float instead of sink as expected. This is a good activity to do prior to carving a pumpkin because as you look inside the pumpkin, you can discuss how its mostly hollow center makes it buoyant and helps it to float.
  • Pumpkin Slime—Remove the top from a pumpkin and scoop out some of the flesh and seeds. Then use the pumpkin as a “bowl” to make slime. Pour in 1-part clear glue and 1-part warm water and stir until combined. Then add 1-part liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle) and stir. The mixture will immediately begin to congeal into slime. Use your hands to pull and stretch it until it reaches the desired consistency. The pumpkin flesh and seeds make this slime especially gross and fun to play with! *Tip—To remove slime from fabrics, use vinegar. To remove slime from hair or fur, use mayonnaise and then comb it out. Then say, “You are never allowed to play with slime again!” Then disregard what you just said because slime is awesome and you cannot help wanting to play with it again and again!
  • Pumpkin Lifecycle—Create a “jack-o-lantern graveyard” inspired by the book Pumpkin Jack. Place an old jack-o-lantern or rotting pumpkin in a garden space or flower bed. Observe it throughout the changing seasons as it decomposes and maybe even grows into a new pumpkin plant! This is a great long-term science project that teaches children about decomposition, biodegradable materials, and the lifecycle of plants/pumpkins.

If you have questions about any these activities, please comment below and I would be happy to answer them.

Have an awesome autumn!

—Chrissy Holcombe, Hickory Corner Branch

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