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What do the veins look like? Do there appear to be holes on the surface? Encourage children to draw their leaf on the My Leaf Recording Sheet, paying close attention to the veins of the leaf. Let children use a magnifying glass to look at the veins of the leaves. Point out that the veins are the circulatory system of the plant, much like the veins in our own body that can be seen on the backs of our hands and the tops of our feet.
Explain that the veins carry food to the plant. Let children record their leaf on the My Leaf Recording Sheet. Let children trace around their leaf with a pencil. Next, let them use a Sharpie marker to trace the pencil marks and draw the veins on the leaf. Last, have them color the leaf with water colors to look like the real leaf.
Deciduous leaves are generally thin and have both an upper and lower surface. For this lesson, students will find the upper leaf surface area. However, both the upper and lower leaf surfaces can be measured. It is important to be consistent. So make sure students know what is to be measured. You can use the Frayer Model teacher sheet to help you guide the discussion. Pass different leaves around to groups. Students should discuss similarities and differences among the leaves.
Also ask how they would describe the overall shape of each leaf. Read the book, Seed, Soil, Sun: Then ask students to compare their definition of a leaf based on their Frayer Models to the definition of a leaf given in the book.
They should revisit their Frayer Models and make any necessary changes so their definition of a leaf is accurate. Then students should explore geometric shapes that most closely resemble the illustrations of leaves in the book.
Here is a great opportunity for students to think about either the overall shape of a leaf or breaking a leaf into various geometrical shapes. For further exploration, an incredible variety of leaf shapes, sizes, colors, etc. In addition, The Glory of Leaves is a good article written for a general audience explaining the biological function of leaves and nicely provides a stronger science connection to this lesson.
Next, hand out a variety of leaves from different plant species or ask your students to bring leaves to school. Again, students should explore the shapes of real leaves. Light, water, and carbon dioxide gas are all necessary for photosynthesis to occur. By absorbing light and taking in water and carbon dioxide, the leaf will produce excess oxygen and food the plant needs for growth.
Light is absorbed by leaves and differences in surface area exposed to light can change the rates of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is absorbed into a leaf through stomates, which are found on its surface. Water also is lost from a leaf through its stomates so plants with a large surface area can lose large amounts of water.
By the end of the discussion, students should come to see that in general, differences in leaf area can affect photosynthesis and therefore, the production of oxygen and food a plant can generate. Again, students should explore geometric shapes that most closely resemble the real leaves in your classroom. Here is another great opportunity to think about either the overall shape of a leaf or break a leaf into various geometrical shapes and then estimate leaf surface area by calculating the area of the related geometric shape s.
Does the geometric shape s over- or under-estimate the area of your real leaves? While the students still have real leaves available, divide students into groups and hand out different photocopied leaves to the groups of students.
Each group should receive the same species of leaves so areas can be compared later in the activity. Ask students to find the area of their leaves using square centimeters and record their solutions and methods. Students should use the Surface Area of a Leaf student sheet for this exercise. Provide rulers, string, pencils, scissors, etc. Encourage students to use whatever materials they need to find the area; however, let them try to figure out the surface area of their leaves on their own. After students have estimated the surface areas of their leaves, they should compare their data and solution methods with the other groups.
For lower learners, students can trace the leaves on centimeter grid paper. Then they should outline the leaves in a dark color to make it easy for them to see. Next, students can count how many whole grid squares were in the leaves. Then they should count the number of partial squares and divide that number in half to get an approximate number of additional square centimeters.
Please see the examples of this process in the Surface Area of a Leaf teacher sheet. Discuss as a whole class the strategies used and the merits of each strategy.
A discussion about the importance of estimation and measurement precision should ensue. One way to assess student understanding would be to ask them to do a Frayer Model again to graphically organize knowledge into four sections, including: Finally, you could ask students to describe two methods for finding the surface area of a leaf and describe two types of leaves that would be best measured using each of the two methods. This lesson can be extended to find the surface area of a leaf using proportional reasoning.
For higher learners, you could have students photocopy a leaf onto a sheet of paper, cut it out, and weigh the leaf using a balance scale. Then, they should cut a rectangle out of the same type of photocopy paper used for the photocopy of the leaf and weigh the rectangle.
Wiggle Worms: Leaf Science and Art
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