The Secret In Leaves: A Botany Lesson
Your student won’t know it but you will be teaching botany as you explore the world inside leaves together. Be sure to allow your child to discover the details about leaves first-before teaching the new, long vocabulary words. Remember, let them learn by doing first. Then, they will have a “peg” to hang the information on.
Your supplies are:
- Fresh parsley
- Whole head of Celery (not cut and packaged)
- Dark, leafy greens (purchase these from the produce section in the grocery store: spinach and romaine lettuce are a must and kale or collards is optional) Find whole leaves, not the packages of cut or pre-shredded
- 2 onions
- 1 whole Cabbage
Read through the lesson first. You may want to plan for the field trip to a local store that sells herb plants if you don’t have them already. You also may want to take the children to the grocery store to purchase the veggies they will be working with.
Print the Student Workbook Chapter: Leaf Secrets Inside
Download and copy the workbook first. Your students will be drawing and writing as they discover the secrets in stems.
If you have subscribed, you can find the workbook in the library. If you haven’t subscribed, what are you waiting for! You will gain access to the library that has all the free printables for these lessons along with helpful worksheets for gardeners. There’s journal and schedule worksheets too.
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Discovering the Secrets in Leaves
Guide your student to discover leaf details
The Basic Leaf Parts
Start with spinach. Give each student a leaf. Following the instructions in the workbook, have them draw a picture first. Teach them the new words, “petiole” and “blade”. Ask them to label the drawing with the new words.
The petiole is the stalk or stem of the leaf. The blade is usually flat, but some plants have crinkly leaves, such as spinach and parsley. If you purchased those herbs, you can give the some leaves of herbs at this time and help them find the blade and petiole on them too.
A spinach leaf is called simple because it’s all one part. Other leaves, like a carrot top is called compound because it has many parts that make one leaf.
One spinach plant has flat and wrinkled leaves but both are simple leaves
These parsley leaves have several parts to one leaf making it look like several leaves.
This inner stalk of a celery head is actually a compound leaf!
Observe a Compound Leaf
Look at your head of celery. Most of the leaves have been cut away. Take the outer stalks off the head. Keep taking them off until you get to the center stalks. They will have leaves on them. Look closely. They have many parts that make one leaf. That means the leaves of celery are compound. Be sure to draw what they look like in your workbook!
Look at the lettuce leaves. They are different from the spinach and the celery leaves. They have no stem, or petiole. They only have leaves.
Carefully peel the outside brown skin off an onion. That is a dried leaf. Look closely at the dried leaf. The lines are veins. Look for veins that are parallel and veins that are “netted”. You may need to hold the leaf up to the light to see all the ways the veins crisscross each other. Look at the leaves with a magnifying glass. Most of the veins are parallel but some connect the parallel veins.
Onions are actually leaf buds! This is an outer leaf.
The author planted the bottom slice of an onion that had two “circles” of onion leaves inside.
Try peeling cabbage leaves off the head of cabbage. Your parent or teacher may have to cut the leaf away from the stem. (Save the cabbage as a whole head because we will observe more secrets in the cabbage.) Is the cabbage leaf compound or simple? Does it have a petiole? Write your answers in your workbook in the space provided.
Have a teacher or parent cut your cabbage from top to bottom. Observe the pattern of the leaves and how they grow from the stem in the center of the head. Pull some leaves off, one at a time. Above each leaf scar, you can find a small bud. The leaves on a cabbage grow from the outside to the inside. The leaves on the outside were the first leaves and the plant keeps adding leaves in the inner side where the hard stem is. The whole head of cabbage is called a leaf bud.
You have already observed celery leaves and you know the leaves are compound. There is another secret. The celery bunch is really a large leaf bud too.
Definition of a leaf bud
When leaves grow so close to each other on a stem, like the cabbage and celery, that is known as a large leaf bud. The stem is very short and the leaves are so close, they seem to grow around each other.
An onion bulb is another big leaf bud. Bulbs store more energy than leaves, so the leaves of an onion contain more food than many other kinds of leaves. The thin, papery leaves toward the outside, the ones we peel off, are bud scales.
Ask a parent or teacher to cut the onion across the middle. The thick, white leaves look like rings. The leaves, like the cabbage, have grown some leaves and then keep adding more leaves on the inside. If your onion has two rings inside the big ring, each ring of leaves is also a bud. So, that’s buds within a bud! Each of those buds can be grown into another whole onion.
Now take another onion and have your adult helper cut the onion from top to bottom. Now you can see how the leaves grow from a very short stem, just like the cabbage.
If your onion has two sets of rings, here is a fun experiment. Fill a glass jar with an opening that the onion can sit on without falling through. Watch the onion for several days. When you see some roots, cut across the middle of the onion and throw the top part away. Put the bottom part back into the water. Now observe and record what you see happen over the next few days. Then, plant the onion in dirt, covering just the bottom part that has roots. Keep your onion watered when the dirt is dry at one inch deep. (Don’t overwater and don’t forget to check it daily.)
Insert image of onion plant
Field Trip: Mystery Flavors
Go to a store where they have an outdoor garden area where herb plants are sold. You may have some of these plants at home. Many people don’t know that the lovely flavors that are added to meat or salads or salad dressings are actually the leaves of herbs. As you stroll around the herb plant section, try to smell them and see if you recognize food that has the herb flavor. You might bring some herbs home and grow them bigger so you can have the flavors growing for flavorful meals.
Answers to the mystery flavors
Mint candy, gum or tea is the flavor of leaves from a mint bush. Sausage is often flavored with sage. Rosemary is often added to chicken dishes. You might recognize rosemary as a Thanksgiving aroma. Pizza often has oregano.
INSERT images of herbs
Did you know that tea is made from the leaves of a tea plant? The leaves are usually dried and crushed a bit to expose more of the leaf’s secret flavor. Hot water is the usual method of how the flavor is released into the water.
The BIG Secret Inside Leaves
You have discovered lots of secrets in leaves. Let’s learn about secrets in leaves that we can’t see. You will learn some new words that describe great secrets that God put in leaves.
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Photosynthesis: The manufacturing word
Have you ever seen a video of the inside of a car manufacturing plant? Cars are made on an assembly line which means one person or machine does one little task or makes one part out of hundreds that need to be done in order to have a whole car.Then, the piece goes to another machine or person and another piece is added, kindof like a puzzle where you keep adding pieces until you get the whole picture. Every piece has a unique purpose for the car. Without each piece, the car would not be complete. So, every piece is important.
Inside every leaf is a manufacturing plant. Leaves make nearly all the food that the plant needs in order to reproduce-or make a new plant. If you look inside the leaf to find its secrets, it won’t look at all like an assembly line but all the hidden parts work together in order for the plant to live. You can learn how the leaf converts energy from light energy and sends that energy for the plant. The light energy is usually sunshine.
Photosynthesis: divide it into word parts
The process in which plants create food from the sun’s energy is called photosynthesis. Let’s take a closer look at that word:
- Photo means, “light”
- Synthesis means, “putting different things together to make something new”
Well, the synthesis reminds me of the car manufacturing plant. The workers take hundreds of different parts and materials to make a whole car. I can imagine that the leaf combines all the parts to make energy, but I can’t imagine how that happens.
Photo sounds familiar. Today, we use the word, “image” because of our work on computers, but “photo” is a short version of a longer word that we understand to mean, “picture”, which is an image. In order to see a picture, you need light, just like you need light to see an image. “Photo” means “light”.
Put the two parts of the word together and you have, “photosynthesis”.Can you use the two parts of the word to make a sentence that will be the definition of the word, “photosynthesis”? You try first. Then read my sentence to see if they match.
Photosynthesis means putting different things together to make something new by using light.
Chlorophyll: The Color Word
What color are leaves when they are fresh and growing in the Spring and Summer? That green color happens when the plant converts the energy. The new word, “chlorophyll” is the green pigment that happens when thousands of parts of the leaf, called, “chloroplasts” convert energy from light.
Next time you see a green leaf, you will know that a grand manufacturing system inside the leaf is at work converting energy from light! They don’t make the energy, they convert it: they change it into energy that feeds the plant. It’s easier to understand that when the leaves are making food from the light for the plant they are green. But, now you know some really fancy words!
Green leaves that are very pale, like the inside of a cabbage, do not produce food. Green stems also make food but not as much as the leaves do.
Energy for Food Comes From Plants
When photosynthesis is happening (which is all the time when the leaf is using light for energy), leaves also produce sugar. What? A leaf is sweet? Hold on….
Leaves turn the energy into food, which is a type of sugar to the plant, and the plant turns the sugar into starch, fats, proteins, and vitamins. Now, if you ask me, that is some kind of manufacturing plant! The cool thing is, we need all of those things that the plant is making in order for US to be a human being working machine! That’s why we eat plants!
Photosynthesis is like a key that makes everything about food work. We eat plants which use the manufacturing process of photosynthesis. Everything we eat comes from either a plant, or an animal who eats a plant. No matter what you eat, the created energy first came from a plant that converts energy from the sun. Who made plants so smart?
Why Plant Energy Is Important
God created us. God created plants to nourish us. If God created us, and created us with a need for food, then surely He created plants with the right kind of food for our bodies. That’s why it’s really important for us to eat food the way God created it because He invented the best way to feed us. Food that is “processed” (remade by people) does not have all the “secrets” inside anymore. Processed food is food like potato chips, cookies, white bread, and instant potatoes. Save those for rare occasions! Why? Because the inventions of God are not in them anymore! The nutrition God put in the plants are taken out by a process. There’s lots of secrets inside plants that we cannot see and we need those secrets in order to be nourished well.
Even More Energy for Us
Much of the energy that the leaves make is sent to the stems, roots, and seeds. Leaves have a lot of vitamins and minerals (more secrets that we cannot see). Roots and seeds have the secrets too and they also have more energy stored in them. So, we eat roots and seeds too for energy. For example, bread is made from the seeds of wheat and other grains. Beans are seeds too. If you did the unit on roots, you already know about roots and tubers. They have more energy than leaves, so eat those too!
Botany Vocabulary Review: Leaves
You learned a lot about leaves. Look at all those new words:
- Simple Leaf
- Compound Leaf
- Leaf bud
Can you remember what the new words mean? How important are plants for your body and health?
I bet you didn’t know there were so many secrets in leaves! God is the master inventory! Now you know some of the secrets He created inside leaves.
May all your weeds be wildflowers,
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. – Mat 6:33 CSB