Leaf in a Bag

From IslandWood Education Wiki
Revision as of 17:52, 21 February 2019 by Elliotts (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Activity Summary

Students make “blind” observations of a leaf hidden in a bag. After representing observations with words and artwork, students locate “their” plant in the field, still without seeing the leaf specimen. When the plant is confirmed, time is spent with the plant in its habitat and students continue to record more observations through artwork and words.


Instructor can address modes of observation as a means to know more about our place and one another. How do you get to know a new puppy? A new fruit? A new kid in class? A new home? We use our senses and this lesson will help you develop your senses and rely on them!

You will be trying to identify a plant that grows here using only a leaf from the plant – and you can’t look at the leaf! Your mystery leaf will be in a bag and you are to describe it using words and sketching, but without looking, but instead with your sense of touch! After you have a chance to explore and record, we will go searching for our different plants either today or tomorrow.

I recommend you start this lesson Tuesday and search for plants on Wednesday. Or you may find/id plants on the same day as you begin and locate another specimen the next day to complete the work. This makes managing leaves a bit easier. Be sure to record which students have which plants in case of loss during the week.


Age group: 9-adult Venue/s: anywhere you find plants!

Materials: bags, a few hand lenses, collected leaf specimens, E1T1 cards, MacKinnon, watercolor pencils or paints, journals, or watercolor paper folded in thirds

Time: ideally 1-3 days, in at least 2 sessions.

The Lesson:

Inside the bag is your mystery leaf. Your job is to explore it without using your eyes. Which sense will you most rely on? (Wait for responses. Touch and perhaps smell). Describe it with as much detail as possible. This is your work and we each have different ways of describing. You may list what you find, write phrases or a paragraph. Maybe you want to make up a rhyme or haiku about your plant. Remember, you cannot peek! Trust your sensory response to your leaf and describe what you are touching. You will write your observations on one section of the paper. Choose a journal page or use watercolor paper and have an example of your format to share. They will be folding this page into three sections. To jumpstart the descriptions, give a few prompts. Can you distinguish veins? What do they feel like? Can you feel them clearly or are they faint? What can you say about the edges? Does it feel like a critter has been nibbling on your leaf? What might it sound like if you crushed it? Is the leaf bigger than your hand, or can you describe it as a comparison: it is as big as a ______?

On another section, sketch the single leaf. I challenge you to make it bigger in your sketch than it actually is – your image of the leaf should take up the entire space. Give students ample time – this can be up to 45 minutes of writing and drawing and getting to know their leaf. Then call everyone back together and reflect on the experience. How was this task harder or easier than you thought it would be? What did you find out? Were there any surprises for you? Have kids share their work and their leaves to compare experiences.

After the sketching and writing is completed, you will invite students to look for their plants. They still will not have looked inside the bag. Gauge the readiness of your group for this experience Since you will have collected your specimens, you should know where to take your group! Start by asking where they think they should look for their plants. Wetland? Ravine? Estuary? Forest? Sunlight or shade. Relate this piece back to the LAWS and why organisms stay in the places they do. Lead them along the trail and have students share with partners what they see that has characteristics similar to their plant. Have pairs sit together, but apart from other pairs. If you are having kids work alone, have them sit and work apart while you circulate.

The third part of the lesson is making an art piece with your plant in its community. After you have located your plant, draw it and include 3 plants or trees nearby. What grows nearby? By noticing what is nearby, you are also noticing what isn’t there. These don’t have to be scientifically accurate, but be mindful of form, texture, shape and color.

Demonstrate watercolor materials before you distribute them. Encourage blending greens to find the colors they want.


Bring learnings together by having students use their work in an E1T1 format or sharing along the trail during the week as special plants are noticed.

Pictures of Practice



Extention #1

Students create a poster advertisement for a PNWplant.  They will need to provideevidence for the claim that their designated plant is the best in the forest!The poster will include a botanical sketch, and information from referencematerials.   Their advertisement is meantto be eye-catching, informational, and creative. Optional: As part of aend-of-lesson gallery walk, students can vote on which advertisement (not theirown) provided the most evidence for the claim that their plant was the best in theforest. 


Use the power of suspense during the Leaf in a Bag lesson. Begin with the “Leaf in a Bag” lesson by having the students partner up and describe their leaf so that their partner can make a simple botanical sketch in their journal. Because they are only using only their sense of touch they will need to use a lot of descriptive language to help paint a picture of their plant for their partner.  These sketches are meant to be imperfect!

There is more to learn about plants than just a name.  Plants can be very useful to humans.  Examples: Have you ever drank tea when you were sick?  Used Aloe Vera on a sun burn? Built anything using wood?  There are many ways that plants can be amazingly useful.  

You will be making poster advertisements as to why their plant is the best in the forest.  You will need to convince your friends that your plant is the best, by creating an advertisement that is creative and convincing!


After taking their leaf out of the bag, have them draw the leaf again below their original sketch.  At this point, they should have some familiarity with their plant.  Students will then find their plant amongst the E1T1 cards and do some research on their plant using their E1T1 card and reference books.


They should find the following information and write it on the blank page next to their sketches:


  1.       Name of Plant
  2.       Where can their plant be found? (Geographic Distribution)
  3.       Physical Characteristics (What it looks like)
  4.       Cultural Uses (How it’s used)


Encourage the students to use both their E1T1 card and the PNW plant field guide to gather more information on why their plant is the best!

Next, be sure they have some solid ideas on what advertisements are used for, where advertisements are found, and who their audience is for the advertisement (in this case it’s one another).  Provide examples of advertisements in the discussion if needed -- i.e. logos, fonts, descriptive language used in advertisements, etc.

Using a piece of butcher paper, roughly ½ the size of a normal poster board found at craft stores, have them create their plant advertisements. 


Ask students to lay out their plant advertisements side by side along the floor and do a gallery walk.  What interesting things did they learn while researching their plants? What is something they learned from someone else’s plant? Was it difficult to find a lot of evidence for why their plant was the best in the forest?

Transfer of Learning''':

This lesson has the students using claims and evidence, and can continue to help students work with concepts of quality, quantity, and size of assumptions in their evidence.  When you provide evidence to convince someone of something, what kind of evidence is the most convincing? In what ways were they using quality evidence (i.e. using reference materials)?  Discuss some ways in which they can be critical of persuasive arguments when there is a lack of quality evidence


Extension #2

As a way to add more inquiry and teambuilding to this lesson, use it as an extension of the Each One Teach One . This takes some extra planning ahead: before the start of E1T1, choose the specific plants your students will teach about, and make clippings to place in the paper bags. (The forest loop is an easy place to do this.) After completing E1T1 with the plants you planned to use ahead of time, transition into Leaf-in-a-Bag. Give each student a bag at random and have them describe their plant in written form, as a drawing, or to a partner. Tell them that each one of them has a plant they just learned about during E1T1, but not necessarily the one they taught! Using their drawing or description, their task is to identify the plant in their bag. Let them mingle and discuss with their peers, as each student is an expert in one of the plants after E1T1. Then have each students take their plant out of the bag and using their sense of sight and the help of their peers, determine the species of plant they each have. They'll need to work as a team to do this since they all have very specific and necessary knowledge to help the group! Debrief can include how they worked as a team to identify each plant. This lesson flows well into either botanical printing or watercoloring as an arts extension. 

This can also be done before E1T1.  Before you do your E1T1, have your students get to know one plant really well so they can teach it to their peers. Plan to gather clippings of the plants you want your students to teach in advance and place each one it its own paper bag. Divide this lesson into 4 parts. Start by having them divide a 2 page spread in their journal into 4 quadrants. Give directions one step at at time, filling in the boxes as you give instructions. 


1. Describe your plant using words (ask for a specific number of words, 5-6 is good). Ask for ideas about words that might describe plants they already know. 

[bs://wiki.islandwood.org https://youtu.be/x-jHKWzfx8k]

2. Draw your plant without looking. Feel the stem, leaves, edges, flowers, etc. Draw without peeking.

[bs://wiki.islandwood.org https://youtu.be/HCzzrZ0Wx-w]

3. The big reveal! Have students remove the plant from the bag and draw it again, only this time adding color.

[bs://wiki.islandwood.org https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jvr_KEU5ZMw&feature=youtu.be]

4. Identify the plant. Give students a field guide and give them a bit of direction (so it's not like trying to find a needle in a haystack). When they think they have it, have an adult come check it off (your chaperone can help if they're knowledgeable about this). Once they are sure about their plant, write 2 facts from the field guide and then give them their E1T1 card and have them write 2-3 cultural uses for the plant. 

[bs://wiki.islandwood.org https://youtu.be/IE-fH6S9EzI]