Chemistry Now: chemistry of changing leaves

Autumn landscapeThink autumn leaves.

OK, sing along now … The falling leeeeaves drift by the windoooow. The autumn leeeeaves of red and goooold …

OK, maybe not!

Instead, explore why the autumn leaves are red and gold. Use the video Chemistry of Changing Leaves as an introduction to plant leaves and pigments or to connect life and space science in a discussion of Earth’s seasons. The video is just one of the “Chemistry Now” series, in which NSTA and NBC Learn have teamed with NSF to create lessons related to common objects in our world and the changes they undergo every day.

Other videos in this NBC Learn collection (linked below) include a 21st Century Chemist profile and historical and modern NBC News profiles on plant research and Sweden’s goal to become fossil fuel free by 2020. After you view the videos and try the lessons, please leave comments below each posting about how well the materials worked in real-world classrooms.

And if you can’t get those first two lines of that song out of your head, do an Internet search for Nat King Cole Autumn Leaves … smoooooooth!

—Judy Elgin Jensen

Photo of autumn leaves in Dundee, New York by Barbara Miers

Video: “Chemistry of Changing Leaves,”  explains the role of the pigment molecule chlorophyll when tree foliage in northern areas changes in autumn from green to shades of yellow, orange and red.

Video: In this 21st Century Chemist profile, “”Green” NC State Chemist Looks for Cleaner, Safer Fuel Process,” North Carolina State University chemist Dr. Elon Ison explains his research on catalysts that could be used to make alternative fuels.

Middle school lesson: This lesson guides students in observing pigments in leaves.

High school lesson: In this lesson, students conduct a chromatography investigation using leaf pigments.

You can use the following form to e-mail us edited versions of the lesson plans:

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