Crunch Time in the Woods: Kids, Leaves, and Color

fall-yellowshirtIn sixth grade, I did a science fair project on chlorophyll.

Mom always shared science facts as we walked through the woods around our house, so I had a head start in science simply because we went outside. In Fall, she talked about changing leaf colors, explaining that leaves stop making chlorophyll, their green pigment, as the air gets colder. Then you could see the other colors in them, the oranges, yellows and purples.

Children may not understand the first time you share something, but repeat it often and add more information, and they will eventually have a wealth of knowledge and understanding.

Fall is the perfect time of year to give children hands-on experience with leaves. Take them on a nature walk and have them find leaves in as many colors as they can. Look closely at the leaves, and you may see signs of moths, butterflies or other creatures.

Green Spring Gardens is an excellent spot for this kind of walk. The park is an outdoor classroom of plants and wildlife for children and their families. Introduce the youngsters to color combinations, and let them explore mixing colors together. But go gently on your way. Remember that those fallen leaves are home to insects that lay eggs among those dazzling colors, and those decaying leaves will provide safety for them through the winter.

After walking the park grounds and exploring the children’s gardens at the site, visit the Green Spring library. The park has a fabulous, non-circulating library that features horticulture books. The children’s section includes welcoming rocking chairs, so plan a little time to browse the collection. Your day can be a perfect mix of exercise, bonding, education and relaxation.

More information about nature books for children is on the Green Spring Master Gardeners’ web page.

Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Green Spring Master Gardener.



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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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