The Science Fair Project – Mom to the Rescue!


The Observation, Identification and Vocabulary of Leaves

Your son or daughter in elementary school will need your help with their science fair project, particularly their first science fair project.

Many Moms go to the family kitchen for ideas.  But there is another option:  go to your backyard first and look at green leaves!

One science fair project that is age appropriate for several of your child’s elementary school grades is “The Observation, Identification and Vocabulary of Leaves.”


The Steps to this Science Fair Project

•    Your son and daughter will observe green leaves on the plants in your backyard that are at, or below, their eye level and within their reach.

•    Your child will then chose several different leaves for further observation inside your house.  Indoors, your child will look at the shape of the leaves more closely and for a longer period of time.

•    Next, your child will match the shape of the leaf from your backyard to the shape of one of the leaves pictured in a plant guide or shown on a plant key.

•    Once there is a match, your child will read, say aloud, spell and write the words that are used to describe the shapes of the leaves she has chosen.  These words will be in the leaf description in the plant guide or under the picture of the leaf on the plant key.

•    Your child will then press the leaves.

•    Finally, your child will glue the pressed leaves to the display boards that are commonly used for science fair projects, and write the words that describe the shape of the leaf next to that pressed leaf.  

Besides the green leaves, display board, glue, a marker and, of course, your guidance, your child needs a plant key or plant guide and a plant press.


The Plant Key or Plant Guide

A Plant Key and a Plant Guide are instructional pictures and text used by students to learn how to identify a plant from the shape of its leaf, the location of the leaf on the stem and the veins in the leaf.

A plant guide usually has a series of entries, each with a picture of a single plant and a description of the characteristics of that plant’s leaf shape and location on the stem and the path of the veins in the leaf.

On the other hand, a plant key will show pictures of the leaves of several plants, side by side, so that one can learn by comparing one leaf shape to another leaf shape, observing the differences in the shapes of the leaves pictured.

Plant keys and plant guides can be found on the internet on the websites of colleges and universities.  Plant keys can also be downloaded after a search for Images. Your child’s teacher may also have a plant guide or plant key.


Lessons Learned

Your child will practice the skill of intentional observation.  By looking at the leaves in your backyard, your child will “see” the backyard differently.  Your child will “see” nature’s shapes.

Your child will also practice the skill of matching a small depiction of a leaf shape to a larger actual leaf with the same or similar shape.

Your child will also engage in the process of drying and pressing botanical specimens.

Finally, your child will have the ability to communicate what she has learned about nature’s shapes because she has a new vocabulary.

Your child will have learned the vocabulary of leaf identification.    Some of the words that your child may learn are:

Fan Shaped
Heart Shaped
Leaf Tip
Leaf Base
Sickle shaped
Taper, Tapered
Tooth, teeth and toothed

As your child advances in school, your child will be exposed to an even larger, and more nuanced botanical vocabulary.

In elementary school, your child learns to identify lines, triangles, squares, rectangles and circles.  Mastering the first few words of a botanical vocabulary however will cultivate the ability to identify and describe nature, which comes in many different, complex, and sometimes unique shapes.


One of the Tools for this Project – A Plant Press

North Country Herbs offers for sale a microwave plant press.

By placing a leaf in our press and putting the press in your microwave for minutes or sometimes, several seconds, the moisture will be taken out of the leaf and the leaf will be flattened.  Your child will have the pressed leaf to examine and later easily glue to her display board.

Here is a link for the flower and leaf press offered by North Country Herbs.  We also offer a larger press.  

Our plant presses can be re-used by your child for another science fair project or for another school project.  They can also be re-used by your other children. The press comes with a user guide.

We wish you the best as you help your child with several years of a very important part of her elementary school education, the Science Fair Project.