Category Archives: Living Science

Preserving Autumn Leaves

Last week we considered the Chemistry of Autumn, and tried to preserve some of the best colored leaves for our nature study wall/shelf.

First, we collected the most colorful leaves we could find – on our property.  We saw some prettier ones while driving down the road, but I decided that it was more important that this be part of our collection of leaves from our own property.

Then we prepared the recipe in a baking pan:
1 part glycerine (found at a local pharmacy)
2 parts water
We laid in a few of our favorite leaves from different trees, loosely covered it with plastic wrap, and then set a smaller baking pan on top to force the leaves down into the liquid.


We started checking them after a couple of days, wanting a supple feel, and then we blotted them dry when they were done.

If you compare the before and after pictures above, you can judge how well it worked.  The Tulip Poplar leaf turned out real nice.  The green colored Red Maple leaf kept a nice green color, but the red colored Red Maple leaf, didn’t keep its color.

It seems that leaves displaying a splendor of yellow and orange, might be the best for this technique, but the leaves with red don’t do as well.

The Chemistry of Autumn Color

I have always loved this time of year, and now that I live in the Appalachian Mountains I love it even more! I thought we might break into our regularly scheduled chemistry lessons this week with a little seasonal chemistry.

We are going to watch this video on why leaves change color, and then read through this short webpage outlining the chemistry behind it.

We may even do this experiment (4th and 5th paragraph) to find the hidden color in a leaf that hasn’t changed yet, and preserve a few for our nature study table.

Of course, we’ll top it off by journalling in our Chemistry Notebook.

Science Scope

Yesterday I posted our backwards version of a chemistry scope and sequence. I mentioned that I had looked at several chemistry textbook table of contents, as well as course requirements, in order to come up with a list of items I think are important to cover when taking a chemistry class.  It’s not that I want the “list” to order our learning, but I want to see how much of that list we cover inadvertently.

Currently my favorite scope and sequence guide is Science Scope by Kathryn Stout, which I got from the Living Book Library.  This book is not a curriculum, but rather a guide, or outline of what items are important to teach in each area of science from Kindergarden to Senior Year.  In the back of the book is a check list to note when each “skill level is completed”.   When I saw that, an idea came back to me that I’d first gotten 2 years ago.

It was at the 2010 Childlight USA Conference. Jen Gagnon was speaking on the idea of Living Science, and she created a fantastic graphic image of the science of relations, and how it does indeed work in the actual field of science.  Below I’ve included a snapshot from my notes. (I’m not expecting my notes to mean a lot to you without Jen’s fantastic lecture to accompany it, but I do want you to notice the idea that there are all these connecting ideas.)

During that lecture I got the idea in my head that if we could (or would) take down notes about our activities and experiences, then it might be interesting to look back at what we actually accomplish each year.

So, what if we used a book like Science Scope, and each week we journaled notes here and there in the book?

Here’s an example:

Last week we did an object lesson on cattails. We learned about where they live, their leaves and flowering parts, their uses, and the parts of it that are edible. (We even tasted it!)

When I look in the Science Scope book, I see on page 33 an outline of “Plants: Distinguishing Characteristics”, which includes a section about leaf size and shape. I will put a note there: Cattails, 9/2011. I also see on page 37 an outline of “Plants: Uses”. I will also put a note there: Cattails, 9/2011.

Later that same week we read a book about Crystals. I see on page 112 of the Science Scope “Define and observe crystals”. There are three bullet points under the heading, and it turns out that all three points were covered in the book. I will put a note next to that: Millions and Millions of Crystals, 9/2011. Later this term the Big Kids are going to do an experiment where they grow crystals. I will let the little kids help, and then I can note again with: Crystal Experiment, 10/2011.

There are several other things we touched on this week too. We searched out the names of the colorful fall flowers we are seeing everywhere, and painted several in our nature study notebooks. (Page 72, “Recognize characteristics of seasons including changes in: Plants”) We used our field guide to figure out what kind of pine trees are in the backyard. (Page 35, “Conifers”)

So, you get the idea.  I’m not suggesting everyone do this. Can you believe I just wrote all this, and yet I say that?!  No, I think it would be best if you just trust the process, because that is more likely to lead to a Sabbath Mood Homeschool.  But if you are curious, or need to prove yourself to someone, (someone that matters – like hubby,) or you want to keep track on a blog so others feel more comfortable trusting the system, (that’s me,) then go for it!