As summer winds down and the air becomes crisp and cool, the autumn season is ushered in with changing leaves, festive treats and fun seasonal activities. From enjoying the colorful foliage to picking apples to sipping your favorite pumpkin beverage, so much of what we love about the season can be related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.
Celebrate the season by exploring fun and educational fall connections with your family.
The Science Behind Changing Leaves
Across the country in many different regions, the transformation of tree leaves signals the fall season. Bright green hues change to vibrant yellows, oranges and reds before dropping to the ground. This pigmented phenomenon is due to an unseen chemical reaction, one in which trees halt the production of chlorophyll, allowing other pigments to show.
You can learn more about the science behind changing leaves and discover inspiring National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees who have ties to the season here.
How Apples Get Their Colors
Autumn is the season of apples, and many people head to orchards to pick their own. Do you know why different kinds of apples have different colors? To find the answer, we can look to the same science that gives fall leaves their vivid shades!
Just like the leaves on trees, apples are given their colors by pigments. Most commonly, apples can be found in red, yellow and green tones. The pigments that make up these colors include:
- Chlorophyll – green apples
- Carotenoid – yellow apples
- Anthocyanin – red apples
Each type of apple starts out green, meaning they all contain chlorophyll. As varieties of both yellow and red apples grow, the chlorophyll breaks down, leaving carotenoid pigments (in yellow apples) and anthocyanin pigments (in red apples). Think about the science behind these tasty fall fruits the next time you bite into an apple!
Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice
It’s no surprise that pumpkin spice is the flavor of the season, but did you know you can make your own at home? This versatile spice blend can be used for flavored coffees, baked goods, roasted vegetables, and of course, pumpkin pie!
Experimenting in the kitchen is also a great way to discover hands-on STEM, from learning math through fractions to observing chemistry through reactions. Here’s how to make your very own pumpkin spice to use all season long:
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
In a small bowl, stir cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves together until thoroughly combined. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.
Keep the Seasonal Fun and Learning Going!
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