Leaves: Designing Leaf Arrangements on a Branch

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
In this hands-on activity, learners investigate the functional design of leaves on a tree. After observing pictures or specimens of trees and their canopies, learners are challenged to design their own tree branch. Post-it notes stand in for leaves, a dowel for the stem, and a lamp for the sun. This exercise is a great way of exposing the order of leaf arrangement, and is a great activity to introduce tree identification by leaf structure. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 dowel (1/8 inch in diameter, 3 feet long; include additional dowels if you have time for groups to copy their branches)
  • 25–30 self-stick notes (3 × 3 inches)
  • 2–3 feet electrical wire (22, 26, or 30 gauge)
  • wire cutters, or scissors or pliers that can cut wire
  • 1 portable electric light, as shown (make sure the light has a receptacle and reflector that can be easily be moved)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
      • Biodiversity
  • Mathematics
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, DRL‐0714703