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Back-to-School Activities


Leaf Litter

Discover organisms that turn fallen leaves into good soil. Use this cool back-to-school activity to explore the ground under your feet.

What You'll Need:

  • Garden gloves
  • Magnifying glass

Step 1: Find a place in the woods where leaves pile up. Look away from trampled paths or under big shrubs.

Step 2: Move aside the surface layer of leaves. Underneath, you'll find crumbled leaves. Under that, the remains of the leaves look like soil. How do leaves become soil? Bacteria and fungi rot leaves, but they also get help from larger organisms.

Step 3: Use your magnifying glass to look at each layer of litter. What do you see? In the upper layers, you may find beetles eating dead leaves. In moist areas, millipedes break leaves into small pieces that bacteria and fungi work on. In deep layers, spiders, centipedes, and springtails eat bits of leaves crumbled from weathering or broken up by larger bugs. In low layers near the soil, earthworms eat soil and decayed leaves.

As you're taking care of excess leaves in your yard this fall, research and make sure you're taking advantage of any recycling programs in your area. Check out how on the next page.

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