Desert Water Keepers

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this outdoor, sunny day activity, learners experiment with paper leaf models to discover how some desert plants conserve water. Learners explore adaptations of various desert plants such as waxy coatings, thick stems, and spines and fine hairs to see which characteristics best help a plant hold water. Learners compare their model leaves to real desert leaves if they are available. Even in a nondesert region, the activity can be done at a local botanical garden that may include a desert plant collection or in any hot, dry area.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Field Trip, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • plastic coffee stirrers (double-straw type)
  • plstic bags
  • 40-cm pieces of string
  • piece of flagging
  • 1 cup of water (200 ml) colored with red, green, or blue food coloring
  • 1 small bucket or basin of water
  • several medicine droppers
  • several crayons
  • masking or transparent tape
  • stapler
  • extra plastic bags and string
  • data boad
  • marking pen
  • metric ruler
  • large comb (optional)
  • Desert Leaf Models Technique Card (page 5 of PDF)
  • Desert Leaf Patterns card (page 6 of PDF)
  • blotter paper sheets
  • scissors
  • plastic drinking straws
  • balls of clay
  • tape


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
    • Evolution
      • Evidence for Evolution
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 1980