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The First Day of Fall

The science behind the leaves, DIY projects & more!

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Happy first day of fall or happy second equinox of the year!

So what does that really mean?

Equinoxes are in fact not day-long events, though we choose to celebrate all day. Instead, they occur the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. The first equinox of the year happens in March when we welcome spring. The second equinox (today!) we welcome fall.

As we welcome fall, we also welcome the leaves changing colors. This is where the science lesson comes into play. During fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, otherwise known as sweater weather, the leaves stop their food-making process. Think of this as leaf hibernation.

The chlorophyll, which is the green pigment in the leaves, breaks down and the green color disappears. Then the yellow, orange and red colors appear giving the leaves their fall splendor.

Now here’s the “bad” side of things. Those leaves end up falling off the trees and making a huge mess in the yard. One approach is to ask your kids to rake the leaves – but to put a fun twist on chores, you could try out this DIY project:

DIY Fall Placemats:

  1. Take a walk with your kids, plan a picnic, or step outside your front door and start collecting leaves. You can even make this a friendly competition and see who can collect the most leaves in 5 minutes!
  2. Once you have collected a handful of leaves, head inside, and have your kids arrange the leaves on a piece of wax paper (12 inches by 18 inches). Don’t overfill the wax paper and make sure to leave a little room on the edges so the paper can melt together. If you want to get a little more creative, feel free to add shavings from crayons to add extra color or even some confetti!
  3. Next, grab an iron *adult supervision necessary* and place another piece of wax paper on top of the leaves. Place the wax paper on top of a towel. Iron the leaves between the two sheets and you’re all done! If you want, you can hand over some felt tip markers and let your kids decorate the finished product.

If you want to take this project one step further, you can turn the placemats into ornaments. All you need to do is cut out the leaves, punch a hole in the wax paper, and use yarn or string to hang on the tree. The ornaments can also double as decor around the house and are beautiful sun-catchers.

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