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nature school project: printmaking with leaves

In the Martin & Sylvia Nature School audio story "The Color is Always There" Sylvia and Sofia make their own colorful leaves out of paper and paint, while Daneesha teaches Martin's Wilderness class how to find color even in a late autumn gray brown New England forest. Martin also gets to know Sam better and learns that she is missing Arizona, the colorful state where she used to live.

We are joined by Dawn of Muddle Puddles to Meteors.


Fall is here and leaves are everywhere. Martin and Sylvia love playing in the leaves and using them to make all sorts of art projects. We do to and as we walked around the yard the other morning we looked for things that would be fun to use in a printing project. All of the fall leaves swirling around in the wind seemed to call to us. It is no wonder there are so many fall leaf inspired crafts out there. They beg to be used for all manner of creation!

We played around a bit but eventually figured out that the use of mostly dry tube watercolors make beautiful prints.

What you need:

  • Leaves that are still subtle and not too dried out
  • tube watercolor paints (If you have not worked with them before they are a great addition to your paint collection!)
  • paint brush
  • watercolor paper (heavy card stock might work as well)
  • a little bit of water
  • plexiglass or another flat object for pressing

What you do:

We squeezed just a bit of tube watercolor paint onto our pallet in our chosen colors and added only a slight amount of water to each color. (We are talking super tiny amounts of water here, folks!)

Using a dry paintbrush we brushed the paint onto the bottom of our leaf. Leaf-printing Dawn 4

Then we laid the leaf, paint side down, onto the paper.

Leaf-Printing Dawn2

While you can press with your hands only it does not make for an even print, so we decided to use some plexiglass to help press the whole surface of the leaf evenly. (We have a stash of old plexi lids from old toy containers.) You could use any ridged flat object such as a book or cardboard. Just be sure to press really well around the larger veins of the leaf.

Leaf-printing Dawn5

After pressing pull the leaf away from the paper and marvel over your beautiful print!

Leaf-printing Dawn3

Play around with colors. You don’t have to stick to the fall color pallet. You may want to try some pastel leaves or even print a few with other holiday colors for future card making!

Have fun printing!

About the Author

Dawn Suzette Smith
Nature School Blogger

Dawn Suzette Smith is a self-taught naturalist and trained educator. For the past 15 years she has worked to promote children's connections with nature as well as outdoor pursuits for both physical and mental health. Her writing and photography have been featured in various print and online magazines and books and in exhibits with the National Park Service. Dawn currently homeschools two curious nature lovers and leads nature walks year-round to help families connect with nature through child-led nature study in the wild forests and along the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia, Canada. Along with Annie Riechmann, she is also the author of the upcoming Whatever the Weather: Science Experiments and Art Activities That Explore the Wonders of Weather (Roost, 2016). You can find her work at Mud Puddles to Meteors, a blog dedicated to finding nature in the well traveled corners of everyday life, and a landing place for nature loving families raising kids to explore the world around them with a spirit of discovery and a love of science.


Martin & Sylvia Nature School

As the summer comes to an end, Momma, Martin and Sylvia reflect on all the things they loved about the summer season: hikes, walks along the beach, blueberry picking, climbing trees and collecting bird feathers. Then Momma suggests that they keep the summer outdoor fun alive all year long: “Every Thursday, lets have Nature School!” And so Martin joins the Goose-eye Wilderness School, and Sylvia and her friend Sophia create a Nature home-school. From wild craft cooking to outdoor games to building projects to tree identification, Nature School will be a year of unfolding learning and fun.