Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Signs of Autumn

Cathie London
Santa Rosa District Schools


This is a culminating activity on the study of photosynthesis, how chlorophyll is important to leaves, and why leaves change colors in the fall.


The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes.

The student knows that green plants use carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight energy to turn minerals and nutrients into food for growth, maintenance, and reproduction.


--Green leaves
--Coffee filters cut into 6 inch strips
--Rubbing alcohol
--3 glass jars (no taller than 6 inches)
--Scotch tape
--Paper towels
--Notebook paper
--Native American legend (see weblinks)
--K – W - L chart
--Information duplicated from the site listed in the weblinks


1.Get 3 glass jars no taller than 6 inches.
2.Tear up 2 green leaves from leaves brought in by the students per glass jar and put them in the bottom of each jar.
3.Fill each jar with rubbing alcohol covering the leaf pieces completely.
4.Cut the coffee filter into 3 strips long enough so the ends just touches the rubbing alcohol. Tape each strip to a pencil.
5.Place the pencil with the strip attached across the top of the jar with the strip just touching the rubbing alcohol.
6. After about an hour when the alcohol has moved half way up the strip, remove each from the jar and lay on a piece of clean paper toweling to dry. Make three stations around the room, each one with a jar and coffee filter.
7. Make sure you have the Native American legend available to read and share.


1.The day before the demonstration have students bring in samples of green leaves.

2. Prepare the jars as described in the teacher preparation section.

3. Students observe the glass jars with the leaves and rubbing alcohol.

4. Students will use a K – W – L as assessment. Before the activity begins the students will write down everything they have learned in their study about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. They will then write down at least three things they hope to learn from the demonstration.

5. Divide the students into three groups. Send each group to a station with the dried strip of coffee filter on a piece of paper towel.

6. Each group discusses among themselves what they observe happened and what it might mean with respect to chlorophyll and the leaves. Hand out the duplicated pages (see weblinks) and have groups read and share the material.

7. After the students return to their seats, the teacher conducts a discussion about the demonstration and what the students observed. He/she reviews photosynthesis and the part chlorophyll plays. Answer any questions at this time.

8. The students will then fill out the rest of the K—W— L as assessment to their understanding of the demonstration with respect to chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Students may use the handout sheets at this time.


1.Describe to the class that a legend is a story handed down for generations and is believed to have some historical basis. They are usually told and not written. The teacher and class then give a couple of examples, ie. Johnny Appleseed and Robin Hood.

2.Discuss how science is based on fact, whereas legends can be myths.

3.Share the Native American legend about how the leaves got their color. Write it on the board. Ask: Why is this a Legend? Is it fact or fiction? How is it different from an informative writing about how leaves change colors in the fall?

4.The students will then write their own legends explaining how green leaves change colors in the fall.


The students will do the -what I know- and -what I want to know- part of the K-W-L before the demonstration and -what I learned-part after the demonstration and discussion. See the attachment for scoring.

After hearing the Native American legend and the discussion that follows, the students will write their own legends explaining why green leaves change colors in autumn. See the attachment for scoring.

Web Links

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