Leaf Litter – Background

Under a leafy canopy, the shaded forest floor is a rich ecosystem teeming with life. Here in the leaf litter, millions of small organisms – fungi and bacteria, springtails and mites, spiders and centipedes – are all part of a rich food web. These busy creatures have an important role in the flow of energy through the forest, for many of them feed on dead plant and animal debris, releasing the nutrients so other living things can grow and thrive.

All the leaves, twigs, feathers, insect parts, and other debris that falls on the forest floor form the leaf litter, a very important part of the forest. Continue reading Leaf Litter – Background

Leaf Litter – Activities

FOCUS: Under a canopy of trees, the forest floor is a cool, damp, and protected environment. Here in the leaf litter millions of small organisms – fungi and bacteria, springtails and mites, spiders and centipedes and others – are all part of a rich food web. Many of these are decomposers, feeding on plant and animal remains and turning them back into soil.

Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about leaf litter.

Pour a garbage bag of full of freshly fallen leaves onto a sheet. Point out that these are just some of the leaves that fall from a single tree, each year. Ask children, “With so many leaves falling in a forest every year, why aren’t they piled up high in the forest?”

Materials: a garbage bag full of freshly fallen leaves, old sheet.

Objective: To experience the world as it might seem to a small creature living on the forest floor.

Be sure to check for poison ivy first. Have children lie on the forest, facing upwards. What do they notice about their surroundings, such as the amount of light on the forest floor (shady), amount of wind (little), noise (quiet), moisture (damp), fragrance (musty, moldy, like damp earth). Have children roll over onto their stomachs and find a place to dig a little nose hole in the leaf litter; Continue reading Leaf Litter – Activities

Leaf Litter – Puppet Show

Litter Critter Jig

Characters: Woodcock, Dead Leaf, Millipede, Fungus, Eft, Springtail.


Wanda Woodcock (dancing) Step to the right, give a little jiggle, step to the left, make the worms wiggle.

Dead Leaf  That’s a nice dance you’re doing, whoever you are.

Woodcock  I’m Wanda Woodcock, and I’m not dancing. I’m jiggling the ground to make the worms wiggle so I can catch ’em! Continue reading Leaf Litter – Puppet Show

Leaf Litter – Standards


The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education.
Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Leaf Litter – Standards