Nature Notes from Common Ground
Week of October 13, 2020
Weekly Nature Note
What's happening in nature this week?
Over the past week, we’ve been noticing the leaves changing color as our annual fall foliage display begins. But why do leaves change color this time of year?
As you may know, leaves use sunlight to produce energy (as sugar) for trees through a process called photosynthesis. The sunlight is absorbed by a chemical called chlorophyll in the leaves. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color.
As the nights get longer and there is less sunlight for the leaves to absorb, the tree begins to sever its connection with its leaves. Chlorophyll remaining in the leaves continues to make sugar, but that sugar gets trapped in the leaves and forms anthocyanin, which produces red and purple colors.
Meanwhile, the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, so their green color begins to fade. Carotenoids, orange and yellow colors that are always present in the leaves, but hidden by the green chlorophyll, begin to show through. The different blends of chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanin give each leaf its unique fall coloration.
Although we might wish for the vivid colors to last, eventually all of these pigments break down, leaving behind only tannins, which give leaves their brownish color.
Nature activity of the week
Activity 1: Weather Tracking
As we get fully into fall and the weather begins to cool, it can be interesting to track the temperature (and other weather conditions) over time.
What you need: observational skills, thermometer, pencil and paper.
Optional: rain gauge, barometer, anemometer, wind vane
Choose a time of day to record your weather observations. Each day at this time, record the date, temperature, and anything you notice about the weather in a chart like this one. If you’re using additional measurement instruments, record their information as well.
Once you have a week or two worth of data (that’s the fancy science word for all the things you’ve written down), see if you can spot any patterns in the weather. Graphing your data makes it even easier to notice patterns!
Activity 2: Natural Dyes
Hike of the Week
East Rock Park
Each week we will share a kid-friendly hike or other outdoor adventure.
This week, East Rock Park offers an easy stroll with wonderful views of the fall foliage and across New Haven!
About this series
In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.
Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.