Free Fall Science Experiment: Leaf Chromatography

We took a little detour from our Learning with Friends Anatomy Bundle this week to explore the fall leaves! It was the perfect weather to stroll down the path in our neighborhood and go on a treasure hunt for the most brightly colored leaves we could find. Our goal was to draw out the leaf colors using chromatography, using a process inspired by A Little Pinch of Perfect.

Here’s how you can make this your own: 

Crush and blend the leaves and put them in a mason jar. We decided to blend some of the leaves and just tear others, as we were trying to draw out the best colors. If you wanted to add more of a scientific process to this, you could use multiple jars and test various methods of crushing the leaves to see which produced the best chromatography results. 

Fill the jar with 70 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol, and insert a strip of paper towel. 

After leaving the towel to soak in the blended leaves overnight, you’ll wake up to a beautiful display of the fall colors creeping up your paper towel. 

A Little Pinch of Perfect has a beautiful chart simply describing the different chemicals present in each leaf that you can download for free on her blog. 

Americanforests.org has a deeper explanation of the chemicals for older students, and is a great soft introduction to Chemistry! (We will be starting our Learning with Friends Chemistry Bundle after Christmas in our house). 

For an explanation of chromatography, Explainthatstuff.com also has a good explanation for older students, if you want to dig deeper into the hows and whys of this project. Your littles will just be amazed at the fun colors!

Nicole Paitsel is the creator and co-founder of Learning with Friends. She is a a former classroom teacher and current homeschooling mom of two. If you can’t find her, look in the local used book store where she is probably hunting for treasures.

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