Backyard Nature Activities: Leaf Slides

This activity is taught in Hike NS’s Re-Connecting with Nature workshop offered each year in locations throughout the province. This is a one-day, hands-on workshop for adults held mostly outdoors to improve your ability to lead and share an appreciation and understanding of nature with children and youth. We plan to have a schedule available in late June for workshops hopefully scheduled in the fall, if possible.

Leaf Slides

Synopsis: Everyone is invited to a slide show and selects a special leaf as a ticket for admission. At the natural theatre, the leader gives each person a slide frame. Each person puts the leaf into the frame. Everyone holds their leaf slide up to the light in a circle and then passes their slides around when the leader clicks.

Set-up and Props: You need one leaf slide per person. Take an approximately 40 by 20 cm light piece of cardboard and fold it in half to get a 20 by 20 cm slide (you could cut up an old filing folder). Label “Leaf Slide” across the top with the fold at the bottom. Then cut a 5 cm square viewing window through both layers of cardboard and the leaf is placed inside the cardboard like a sandwich, over the hole. Pick a nice clear spot to circle up for the slide show. Find a narrow spot between the trees to form the entryway into the theatre so they can go in single file with you “at the door”.

Source: Adapted from Earthwalks by Kirk Hoessle & Steve Van Matre, Institute for Earth Education, 1980.


1. Lead in: “Often when you go to parks and special places, they give you a slide show to start off. Well, I have one for you and we are going to be able to run the projector right out here in the middle of the woods. Instead of taking place in a dark room, we need a bright open area – like that one over there!” (S)he gestures toward a nearby clearing in the woods.

2. Introduce Leaf Ticket: “But don’t expect to get in without your ticket for admission. Get yourself a very special leaf you can find and meet me over there. Don’t pick up just any leaf and make sure everyone has a different one. I’ll check your tickets there.”

3. Inspect leaves at door: Move ahead to the clearing while they select leaves. As they arrive, put them in single file outside the theatre and give each leaf a quick inspection. Instruct them to keep their tickets as they enter the theatre and form a good circle. 

4. Demonstrate how to make a slide, then hand out frames: Join the circle and note that “you not only hold the tickets in your hands, you also hold the slides for the slide show. I’ve got something here that will help you make your slide.” Show the group a leaf slide frame and demonstrate its use. “This will complete your leaf slide. Simply place your leaf inside. You’ll then be able to experience the incredible beauty in leaves.” 

5. Demonstrate how to focus slide: Let them look at slides initially and then  “Now I’ll show you a different way to focus and view your leaf slide. Hold your slide up to the sky at arm’s length, close one eye, and bring the leaf right up to your eye. Then slowly move the slide back towards the sky until the leaf comes into focus. See what happens? You can see all the veins.”

6. Conduct Show: “Now it’s time for the slide show. That’s when we take a look at each other’s leaf slides. Let’s imagine that we form a circle of slides in a tray, just like the tray on top of an old-fashioned slide projector. When you hear the slide projector click, pass your slides around to the left. Use that same focusing technique to view each slide.” The leader clicks until the slides have gone all around and everyone has their own back.

Early Childhood Adaptation: Use a clothes pin to hold the leaf, rather than the paper frame.

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