Keywords: leaf, compound, simple, tree species, art project; Grade Level: Elementary—grade 2 through 5; Total Time Required: 2-3 hours over 3 class periods *Note: Leaf preparation takes about a week, therefore, leaf collection must take place one week before art lesson; Setting: outdoors in wooded area (first class), classroom for other parts

Goals for the Lesson

  1. Students will identify leaves used in their art project by using tree id guides or keys.

  2. Students will create a unique collage of an animal/creature using at least two types of leaves.

Materials Needed

  • variety of leaves (dried and pressed)

  • glue or rubber cement

  • poster board or construction paper

  • index cards

  • pencils

  • tree guides or leaf keys

  • books: Look What I Did With a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi and Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins

State Standards Addressed: 4.2.4 B Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources: Identify products derived from natural resources; 4.7.4 A Threatened, Endangered and Extinct Species: Identify differences in living things

Subjects Covered: science, art

Topics Covered:
leaf identification, collage design/ creative expression

Teaching Model: hands-on


Note--This lesson is intended as a follow-up lesson to prior instruction in using a key or guide for tree identification.

  1. Review with the class leaf characteristics--simple/compound, broad/needles, lobed, leaf margins. Use pages 6-11 of Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins to illustrate leaf differences. Remind students of their past experience using tree identification guides and keys.

  2. Explain to the class that they will use leaves to create animals or creatures by making collages. Show the cover of Look What I Did With a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi as an example of a leaf animal collage. (This book features many collages made with layered leaves to create pictures of different animals.)

  3. Have the class go to a wooded area and gather a variety of leaves. In autumn, the many colored leaves will allow students to create a more vivid collage animal. If it is not possible to gather leaves as a class, the teacher should gather a variety and bring to school.

  4. Prepare the leaves as suggested in Sohi's book under "Preparing the Leaves."

    • Soak in warm water for a few minutes.

    • Blot between paper towels.

    • Lay between newspaper.

    • Place a heavy book on top.

    • These steps are presented in greater detail in Sohi's book.

      *The leaves need about a week to dry before being able to be used for the collage.

  5. (Class Period 2) Once leaves are prepared, have students plan their collage by arranging leaves in different ways. When students have a plan for a creature or animal, instruct them to carefully glue the leaves to poster board or construction paper to create their pictures. Allow collages to dry thoroughly.

  6. (Class Period 3) Ask students to discuss what they know about recipes. Make sure to talk about the ingredient lists and procedure steps. Give students an index card to create a "recipe" for creating their leaf animal or creature.

  7. Students will need to use tree guides or leaf keys to identify the leaves in their collage. The recipe should include the types and amounts of leaves used as well as explain how they were used or put together. (Just as a real recipe includes ingredients and procedure steps.)

    For example: The fish on the cover of Sohi's book may read
    "A Leaf Fish"
    1 ginkgo leaf for tail
    Several blueberry leaves for scales, etc.


Students will be evaluated by the accuracy of their leaf recipe. The collage should have the leaves listed in the recipe. The collages and recipes can be displayed together with an appropriate title like "What Can a Leaf Be?" or "Can You Beleaf What we Made?"

Literature/Sources Cited

Robbins, K. (1998). Autumn leaves. New York: Scholastic Inc.

Sohi, M. E. (1993). Look what I did with a leaf! New York: Walker and Company


Chandra Weigle, State College Friends School