Autumn Splendor: Learning About the Leaves from the UGC

BY AMANDA MOSES

In celebration of the fall season, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman has been working with students to create stained glass collages using leaves from the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC). Members of Spring Creek Teen Central were able to tap into their creative side by designing intricate patterns with various leaves, tissue paper and sparkling gems to develop a colorful masterpiece. Some teens recreated their favorite Marvel characters, like Iron Man using the red leaves, yellow tissue paper, and bright blue gems. Others created a landscape blending a picture of a sailboat with blue tissue paper to represent the water and leaves floating in the background.

Middle schoolers in Gateway Intermediate School (IS) 364 decided to use this arts and crafts project as an opportunity to both decorate their classroom for the Thanksgiving holiday and to con-duct scientific observations. The class preserved the leaves in wax paper for the fall, and then in the spring they will compare and contrast them to spring leaves.

During the spring and summer, the leaves are green because they are the main source of food for a tree. In the warmer seasons, the sun is out longer so leaves perform photosynthesis (the process of harnessing energy from the sun and transforming it into chemical energy for a plant). The reason the leaves are green is because the cells in the leaf contain chlorophyll, and this coloration allows the leaf to trap a significant amount of light and turn it into energy.

During the fall, the leaves lose their green color because of the lack of sunlight and drop in temperature. The leaves are not able to make food, so the green chlorophyll breaks down, turning yellow and then orange. Roytman explained to Laura Saccomanno’s science class that although the leaves have fallen off the trees and cannot perform photosynthesis, they still serve an important role in the garden’s life-cycle.

“The leaves form a blanket over a garden bed, protecting the soil during the harsh winter months,” Roytman said. The leaves have trace minerals from the trees they came from, so they make the perfect nutrients for earthworms, maintain moisture in the soil, and keep the roots warm during the cold months in addition to cover crops.

Seventh grader, Veronica Wilson raised her hand and added to Roytman’s discussion, “The leaves and the cover crops are both blankets that protect the soil like we use blankets to keep warm ourselves.”


Photos by Amanda Moses