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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 to observe and enjoy the beauty of the turning leaves. During a study of photosynthesis, ask students to share their knowledge of what causes the color transformations in leaves. Document student responses on a classroom white board using Crayola© Dry Erase Markers. Keep these responses available for future reference.
    2. Provide an opportunity for students, working in small groups, to research the variety of cells that work to provide food to a leaf. Discuss the chemical processes that occur and how these change as cooler and longer nights arrive in autumn.
    3. Invite students to decide how they wish to depict their new knowledge in a three-dimensional exhibit. Here’s one example of how to illustrate it.
    4. Demonstrate for students how to draw a leaf on cardboard with Crayola® Gel Markers. Form leaf cells with Crayola Model Magic. To create a variety of colors, cover white Model Magic with marker colors. Knead to blend in the color. Air-dry leaf cells overnight.
    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 classmates.
  • 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.

    SCI: Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

    VA: Students will convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

    VA: Students will interpret and meaning in artistic work.

  • 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 parts 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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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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