See the Colors in Leaves

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Learners use chromatography to separate and analyze the mixture of pigments in leaves. Use this activity to discuss photosynthesis as well as why leaves change color in autumn. Safety note: Nail polish remover is flammable; do not use near heat. It also is harmful if ingested. Adult supervision recommended.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per student)

  • Various types of leaves in different colors
  • Small cups
  • Coffee filters cut into strips
  • Nail polish remover
  • Pen


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access