Autumn Backyard Field Trip

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Autumn brings beautiful changes in deciduous trees, creating the perfect environment for a backyard field trip.

Collage of fallen leaves, acorns, and twigs creating the image of a tree.

Collage of fallen leaves, acorns, and twigs creating the image of a tree.

For this activity, grab a family member or friend and head outside. Examine your yard for different types and colors of leaves. What did you find? Maybe you’ll find twigs of different kinds, leaves from different types of trees, and maybe an acorn, walnut, or some other treasure. How many different hues do you see in the leaves you found? Do your leaves have holes where insects have chewed them or maybe dark spots throughout? After you’ve examined your leaves, feel free to get creative and create some artwork with what you’ve gathered, and snap a photo of your creation before taking your materials back outside.
 Different types of fallen leaves in hues ranging from green, to orange, red, yellow, and brown.

Different types of fallen leaves in hues ranging from green, to orange, red, yellow, and brown.

Here you can see we found some oak, tulip poplar, black gum, maple, and birch leaves ranging in shades of green, orange, red, and yellow.
So why do leaves change color in the fall anyway?
As daylight gets shorter and the weather gets cooler, chlorophyll production in the leaves is reduced. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green pigment and helps turn sunlight into energy through the process of photosynthesis. Because chlorophyll is reduced, the other pigments in the leaves including reds, oranges, and yellows become visible, giving them their fall colors. Eventually, these leaves will fall off of the trees since they no longer have chlorophyll and are no longer needed for energy production. The energy that the leaves produce during spring, summer, and early autumn is stored within the tree to keep it alive during winter.