STEAM at Home: Exploring Leaves

Fall foliage is breathtaking, and provides the perfect opportunity to learn about leaves. Leaves are especially interesting to observe in autumn. Ever wonder how liquids travel through leaves? To find the answer, I worked on an easy STEAM experiment that is perfect for all who love nature and learning about leaves.


  • Leaves
  • Scissors
  • Clear cups or glasses
  • Water
  • Red food coloring
  • Paper and pencil, or another way to record observations
  • Magnifying glass (optional)

First, you can make a K-W-L chart, a type of worksheet that helps your child identify what they already know, what they would like to know, and what they have learned. Here's a handy template for you to use, and some sample questions to use in your chart:

  • What does your child already know about leaves?
  • What would they like to learn about leaves?
  • At the end of the experiment, you can record what they learned.

You can begin by taking a walk through your backyard, local park, or a hiking trail to collect a few different leaves for your STEAM experiment. When you get home, snip off the bottom of each leaf stem. Next, fill a glass or clear cup with water; the cup should be about a third of the way full. Place each leaf in its own glass of water. Then add food coloring to the water. Over the next few days, you’ll begin to notice the color is slowly moving through the leaves. You can use a magnifying glass to get a closer look. Continue to record your observations over the next few days.

The science behind this experiment:

“The colored water is moving through the xylem tubes of the leaf. The xylem tubes of plants transport the water and minerals up from the roots through the entire plant. The thick walls also provide support for the plants.”

Wyndham Path, where I found the leaves I used in my experiment

Day One: leaves in clear cups with water and red food coloring

Day Two: one leaf begins to show the red food coloring

Helpful Websites:

Related Reads:

Born to Be Wild by Hattie Garlick
Want to learn more about activities that you can do with your family? Hattie Garlick has some great tips on how to reconnect with nature. Learn how to combine everyday materials with feathers, twigs, shells, rain and mud for fun outdoor activities. Unplug and spend some time outdoors!

Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell
Want to learn more about the parts of plants that we eat on a daily basis? This wonderful book has colorful illustrations, and a view of science that is easy to understand. Discover how an apple seed grows and what wheat seeds make!

Hungry Plants by Mary Batten
Explore the world of carnivorous plants. Discover why these plants eat bugs. Did you know that the oldest carnivorous plant is the aldrovanda, or waterwheel plant? How do they trap their prey if they don’t move? Fascinating facts are all here in Hungry Plants.

We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow
How can we connect on a global scale, learn about diversity and the importance of nature? Find the answers to some of these complex questions in a wonderful picture book. Meet two families who plant trees and benefit from their growth. A relevant and timely book.


Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot
Become inspired to contribute to the world as you read about Wangari Maathai’s lifelong goal to bring people together. A beautiful picture book that demonstrates how change and social justice are connected to caring about our planet: Mathai’s organization planted thirty million trees.

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