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Color-Changing Cells

Leaves are just doing what comes naturally when they change colors and fall from trees. Find out more about this process and display in naturally colorful way.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Autumn is a time for the beauty of the turning leaves. Ask students what causes that transformation? As the length of days and nights change (photoperiodism) and the amount of available daylight decreases, a plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll (photosynthetic pigment) is reduced. Senescence, the process of aging and death of plant part (leaf) begins to occur. Nutrients return to the stems and roots of the plant, abandoning the leaves. When the green chlorophyll is gone, yellow and orange carotinoids that have been always present are left.
    2. Students research and learn more about cells that form where the leaf and stem connect. After understanding the chemical processes, decide how to depict the knowledge in a three-dimensional exhibit. Here’s one way to show it.
    3. Draw a leaf on cardboard with Crayola® Gel Markers.
    4. Form leaf cells with Crayola Model Magic. To create your own colors, cover white Model Magic with the marker color. Knead to blend in the color. Air-dry your leaf cells.
    5. Use Crayola School Glue to hold cells in their proper places on the cardboard drawing. Air-dry the construction.
    6. Label a key with matching colors and explanations of the color-change process. Add borders or other enhancements to the project before presenting the information to other students.
  • Standards

    LA: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Students create vocabulary cards for scientific terms used in this lesson such as photoperiodism and senescence. Encourage students to write the definitions for new terms in their own words and to provide an illustration on their personal vocabulary cards to assist with retention.

    Older students can research the effects that chemicals such as anthocyanin and tannin have on different species of plant leaves. Students can also be asked to create 3-D models of these findings.

    If autumn is approaching, have students mask arts of leaves on a tree as senescence begins. Have students monitor the effect of sunlight on the process. They may choose to graph the effects. Investigate what happens at the stem site where the leaf falls off.


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