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See the Colors in Leaves

Source Institutions

    Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

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See the Colors in Leaves

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
      • Chemistry of Life
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemistry of Life
      • 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



  • All Rights Reserved, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, ©2012


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