Science Projects for Kids: Spectrum of Colors

Discover Hidden Leaf Colors

Use alcohol to bring the fall colors out of the leaves.
Use alcohol to bring the fall colors out of the leaves.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Discover Hidden Leaf Colors is an eye-opening science project for kids. This experiment focused on the spectrum of colors lets kids preview fall colors in a spring or summer leaf.

What You'll Need:

  • Green leaves
  • Plastic bowl
  • Sand
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rock
  • Glass jar
  • Paper
  • Paper clips

How to Discover Hidden Leaf Colors:

The reds and yellows and oranges seen in fall leaves are always there, but they are hidden during the year by the greater amounts of green pigment in the leaf. You can perform an experiment to separate the colors in a leaf so you can see some of the hidden colors.

Step 1: Gather some green leaves. Put a few tablespoons of sand in a plastic bowl and add the leaves. With adult supervision, add enough rubbing alcohol to cover the leaves.

Step 2: Crush them into little pieces using a rock. (Be sure to wash your hands after touching the rubbing alcohol, and keep alcohol away from younger children in the house.) Crushing the leaves in the rubbing alcohol will pull the pigment out of the leaf and turn the alcohol green.

Step 3: Carefully pour the green alcohol out of the bowl and into a glass jar. (Discard the sand.)

Step 4: Now, roll a piece of paper into a cylinder and clip the ends together with a paper clip. Place the paper cylinder in the jar of alcohol, and leave it overnight (keep it away from any flame).

Step 5: The leaf pigments will creep up the paper. The pigments climb at different speeds, causing the different colors to separate from each other. In the morning, when you check the paper, you will be able to see the colors that were hidden in the leaf on the paper cylinder.

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