Montessori Botany Study: Learning About Leaves

After learning about plants in general, we actually began with a tree study — but since it’s the perfect season to learn about leaves and why they change color, I’ll share that part next!

We began by looking at the different parts of a leaf using these 3-part cards.  As we usually do with this kind of material, I had Nora match all the pictures while Lila matched the words.

We followed that up by using those cards along with a leaf skeleton we found outside to label its parts.

And then we did the same thing with a live leaf from our backyard!

To finish this mini-unit on the parts of a leaf, we made leaf rubbings and then labeled the parts we could see on those.  I love extensions upon extensions upon extensions — especially when they are so powerful in really learning the concepts!

I’ve been drooling over the Montessori leaf cabinet insets, but they are far outside our budget for homeschooling.  So I was so excited to find printable versions of the Montessori leaf cabinet insets and 3-part cards!

We began by examining the shapes using the Leaf Cabinet 3-Part cards

…then we used the Leaf Cabinet Insets & Frames like a puzzle.  [I printed these on cardstock so they wouldn’t tear.]

Although we did our botany study right in the middle of spring, one of the topics Lila wanted to learn about the most was how leaves turn colors in the fall… so we did!

We began by examining different leaves and what they look like in both spring and fall using these Spring & Autumn Leaves 3-Part Cards.

We also watched a few short videos explaining why leaves change color in the fall  before doing our own chromatography experiment inspired by Gift of Curiosity — be sure to check her post for links to those videos!

First we collected some green leaves from our yard and sorted them by type.  Then we cut/tore up each type of leaf into a separate glass.  We used chopsticks to grind up the leaf pieces even further, then poured some rubbing alcohol into the glasses.

We covered each glass with plastic wrap and placed them all in a shallow baking dish with 1 inch of hot water for about half an hour, swirling the jar every 5 minutes or so.  I had to replace the hot water several times.  The girls loved watching the rubbing alcohol gradually turn darker.

Finally, we removed the glasses from the water and put the end of a coffee filter strip into each glass.  And then we waited a couple hours as the colors traveled up the coffee filter!

As you can see, the leaves that the girls prepared (the two on the left) did not give us as clear results as the one I prepared (on the right), so you might want to help with the grinding process if you want better results.  But basically, the experiment shows that other colors (we saw a lot of yellow) also exist in the leaf even before it starts changing colors.


We rely heavily on wonderful children’s books for all of our themed studies, and here are the books we used to study the leaves as part of our botany study:

Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Jumpers, by Carole Gerber

Why Do Leaves Change Color?, by Betsy Maestro

Autumn Leaves, by Ken Robbins

Leaves, by David Ezra Stein

Full of Fall, by April Pulley Sayre


Stay tuned as we continue to dive deeper into our botany study!  Next time we’ll go backwards to see what we learned about trees.