Let’s awe our students through the beauty of nature! During this time of year, one of the many items found in it are leaves. Beautiful leaves changing colors! From four-leaf clovers to large acacias, they are present in various plants. In this article, I’ll show you what they are and how you can teach about leaves to your students in your classroom.
What is a Leaf?
A leaf is one of the organs of a plant. Usually, they are found above ground. They are connected to their respective plant through the stem. Their function is to produce the plant’s food through photosynthesis. This process involves using sunlight to create chemical energy while providing oxygen to us and other organisms.
Parts of a Leaf
There are three main parts of a leaf, which include the following:
petiole – This is a stem-like feature of a leaf that transports what it produces to the plant’s stem and vice versa.
leaf base – It is the part of the leaf where it is close to where the rest of the leaf is attached to the plant’s stem.
leaf blade – This is the main leaf and where most of the photosynthesis process is done for a plant. It is comprised of a network of veins and venules connected to the midrib which facilitates the exchange of nutrients between leaf and plant. The edges of the leaf blade are called margins.
Types of Leaves
As plants are unique to one another, so are their leaves. Leaves can come under one of the following types:
angiosperms – This is a scientific term to refer to all leaves that are found on flowering plants, which includes shrubs and deciduous trees. Usually, they are shed during the fall every year as they become battered due to use and exposure to their environment. These leaves are usually broad in shape, which allows them to absorb as much sunlight as possible, but makes them rather fragile towards the environment the plant is in.
conifer leaves – These leaves are found only on a group of plants grouped as conifers. They are certain plant species that create seeds but does not make flowers or fruits. As they are evergreen plants, meaning that they don’t shed their leaves like angiosperms do, they shed them as we would shed hair or skin. When it comes to their shape, they are smaller or thinner and are designed to withstand harsh weather.
fronds – This type of leaf is characterized of having a stalk where several smaller blades grow out. It is usually seen among ferns, palms, and cycads. Each smaller blade can have different shapes but the group of blades is considered a single leaf.
grass leaves – This type of leaf usually comes in a form where a group of thin, long leaves grow out of a base. Some species can have fewer or more leaves from the base. There are others that have different shaped leaves too.
unusual and special leaves – To plants that have leaves whose shapes that don’t fit any of the types above, they are deemed as unusual. Two common examples are the pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap. The pitcher plant gets its name from the modified structure of its leaves that catch any prey that falls inside the pitcher. Meanwhile, the Venus flytrap’s leaves are open like a mouth and snap shut when an insect lays inside. These structures are what makes it special and they still go through the process of photosynthesis like other leaves.
Books on Leaves
Don’t forget to supplement their lesson about leaves by showing them books about it. Here are some that are great as one of your classroom resources:
This book by Lisa Bullard is a great read-aloud for autumn. Not only will your students be amazed by the images of leaves falling down trees, but this is a great way to learn about photosynthesis and why trees shed them.
Unlike the other books in this series, it talks about the metaphorical meaning of falling leaves. The charming story shows kids about a leaf who’s afraid of letting go from the tree and then sees another leaf. As you go through the story, it will teach your students about adjusting to change and moving on from where they are.
When I read this book to my students, some of them felt like the curious bear, who is the center of this story by Steain. Follow him as he wonders why leaves are falling off the trees in autumn until he sees the changes of the trees in spring. They will certainly feel awed at the changing seasons as he did.
What’s great about this book is that you can show this to your students to see how different trees shed their leaves during fall. It talks about a group of children that go around the forest and look out for fallen leaves. It is a great pair with classroom activities centered around the season.
How to Teach Children About Leaves
After seeing my recommended reading list about leaves, here’s some of the activities that you can do to make learning about leaves fun:
Allow students to collect leaves – Remember the Metzger book I suggested earlier? You can let your students look for leaves around their neighborhood as a fun activity. Doing this will help them explore and see for themselves what they can find around them.
Make a collage from collected leaves – This is recommended after you ask your students to look for leaves on their own. Using glue and a piece of paper, let your students stick the leaves any way they want on the paper and let it dry. You can then put up the collage around the classroom to decorate it for autumn.
Teach them how to make leaf rubbings – For this activity, you can either give your students a leaf each or bring their own leaves. Then, show them to put the paper on top of the leaf then rub their crayon on the paper. They’ll definitely be amazed at the pattern they will get and this is how you can show them about how different leaves have different veins.
Whether leaves are on the ground or are still on the tree, they are an important organ of any plant. As they have so many types and many parts, I even recommended books and activities for you to use. I wish you a good autumn and may your students learn a lot about the season while enjoying themselves.