Leaf Rubbings Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to use leaf rubbings to learn about the structures and functions of a leaf. They will also use these rubbings to create their own classification systems based on commonalities.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson plan, students will be able to:

  • Conduct routine rubbings of natural samples
  • Observe leaves for similarities and differences, and debate the reasons for those features
  • Organize a set of samples by common features and traits


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.


Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.


  • Access to leaves
  • Blank computer paper
  • Crayons


  • Begin with a discussion about leaves.
    • Why do plants have leaves? Do you think that all plants have leaves for the same reason?
    • Do all leaves look the same? What do you think explains the similarities and differences in leaves?
  • Take the class outside to collect their leaves. Each student will need a total of ten leaves, which should be as different as possible. Ask students to try and find leaves that are also as whole as possible.
  • Students will bring their leaves back inside to do the rubbings. Hand out crayons and ten sheets of blank, white paper to students. Instruct students to select their first leaf.
  • Tell students that they will be doing a front and back rubbing of this leaf on one sheet of paper, so to plan out the use of their space.
  • Students will lay the leaf on a flat surface, place the paper on top of it, and gently rub the side of the crayon on the paper until the image of the leaf appears. Students will then flip the leaf over and rub the reverse side.
  • Ask students to repeat this process until the fronts and backs of all ten leaves have been rubbed onto paper.

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