Summer Arts & Crafts #1 – Leaf Cards, part 1

Green leaves are everywhere! And if you haven’t noticed, leaves from different types of trees look entirely different! Today’s activity is the first of a two-part activity. It is both an art activity and a lesson on tree identification. Last winter, I talked about how the bark of different trees can help identify what kind of tree it is, even though leaves aren’t present. Now we’ve got leaves, the easiest way to identify tree species.

For Part 1 of this activity you will need: leaves, sheets of newspaper, two pieces of thick cardboard, heavy books or a large rock.

First, gather some leaves. Four to six is a good place to start. You can always add more later. Choose leaves that are healthy, without any holes or damage from insects. Be sure to collect the stem of the leaf as well as the leaf itself. (The stem is complete if you have included the portion that attaches the leaf to the branch.) Take a notebook with you, and when you pluck a leaf from a tree,  write down what the leaf looks like and where the tree that you plucked it from is located.

Here’s a few of the things you could write down about the leaf:
(1) The leaf shape: is it oval, pointed at one end, shaped like a heart, have three or five or seven separate ‘fingers’, or look like a fan? Are some of the leaves mitten-shaped? star-shaped? Describe the shape.
(2) The feel of the leaf: is it smooth on one side and rough on the other? does it have little hairs growing on it? is it much lighter in color on one side? is it shiny on one side, almost like it’s been polished? Describe the leaf’s surface.
(3) The edges of the leaf: are they smooth? do they have sharp pointed ridges almost like a serrated knife edge? The tips of the leaf: are the leaf tips rounded, or pointed? Describe the edges and tips of the leaf.

Write down anything you notice about each leaf, and give that leaf sample a number. Hopefully, you will be able to match the leaf and the description and location you have given it when you begin to make your leaf cards.

Once you’ve collected your leaves, we want to press them flat. (They will curl up as they dry, otherwise.) Individually, put one leaf between two sheets of newspaper. Then form a stack with the newspaper sheets. Place a sheet of stiff cardboard on the bottom of the stack, and also on the top of the stack. Then put heavy books or a large rock on top of the cardboard. The newspaper will absorb the moisture from the leaf as it dries, and the heavy books or rock will keep the leaves flat as they dry.

In dry weather, it should take about a week for the leaves to completely dry. Add more time if it has been raining or you live in a humid area.

Check back next Monday for part 2 of Leaf Cards, and learn how to put the cards together.

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