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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Backyard Science

Oct 01, 2017 12:00AM

By North Bay Science Discovery Day Committee

Leaf Lessons

Have you ever noticed that fallen autumn leaves don’t stick around forever? In our neighborhoods, we collect them to be sent away with the rest of our waste. But what goes on in the forest? Try this experiment to investigate what happens to leaves after they fall off trees.


2 recently fallen leaves

1 Ziploc bag big enough to hold a leaf flat

1 small plastic bin with lid

3 cups “wild” soil (containing some worms and insects), partially damp


1. Put 1 leaf into the Ziploc bag and seal it tight.

2. Put the soil into the small bin, and partially bury the leaf in the soil.

3. Poke a few holes in the lid and cover the bin.

4. Make a prediction of what will happen to the two leaves. Why do you think it will occur?

5. Make observations of the two leaves every few days. Are they changing? Do your observations match your predictions?

6. After a few weeks, make a drawing comparing the two leaves.

How are they different?

What do you think happens to leaves that fall off the trees every year.

Toy Parachute

Design a way to protect your favorite small toy from a bad fall. Who can make his or her toy fall the slowest?


Plastic shopping bags

Basket coffee filters

Small squares of cloth

String or yarn

Disposable cups (Styrofoam

works well)

Pipe cleaners


Scotch tape

Small, light toy (like Legos figure)


Use the materials to design a parachute or hot air balloon that can fall slowly and protect your toy. Have an adult climb onto a chair to test your design. What parachute design and material fall the slowest?


• You don’t have to use all of the materials.

• Lots of tape might make your parachute heavy.

Find more experiments like these at the free North Bay Science Discovery Day on October 28, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.