Autumn Leaves

During Autumn time, you can use the changing seasons and falling leaves to your advantage. Autumn is a fantastic time to inspire students using the outdoors, just before the winter weather sets in. We have chosen our two favourite science based activities to try during Autumn.

Identifying Autumn leaves 

You could take students on a woodland nature walk, to collect various differently shaped and coloured leaves. Use our A3 Trees and Shrubs Laminated Gatekeeper ID Guides to identify your findings.

Thin layer chromatography experiment 

Or how about combining the changing seasons outdoors with a chemistry lesson? Ask students to carry out Thin Layer Chromatography on the different colours of leaves they can find.  Thin Layer Chromatography is the separation of a mixture of substances using a stationary phase (silica on the TLC Plate) and a mobile phase (usually a liquid solvent).

The colouring from the leaves is extracted using chemicals, then it is applied to a pencil line near the bottom of the TLC Plate using a fine paintbrush. The mobile phase moves through the stationary phase separating the components. Rf values can then be calculated to identify the components by measuring the distance each coloured spot travels up the TLC Plate.

CLEAPSS have a simple procedure for completing this experiment, which can be found on their website and accompanying YouTube Channel. Please check the procedure and hazards before completing this practical with your students.

Students can try repeating the procedure, using different colours of leaves, and compare their chromatograms.

Learn more about Autumn science experiments

Take a look at our Twitter and Facebook pages, where we regularly post new experiments to try with your class. Our specialist team is also available to answer any technical questions, just call them on 0845 120 4521 or e-mail them on

What equipment will I need for Autumn science experiments?