Looking at Leaf Litter

The layer of fallen leaves that sits atop the soil is called leaf litter. What happens to all these leaves? In science class, you have been learning about how organisms interact in ecosystems. In this activity, you and your family members will try to find the organisms that live on and among fallen leaves.




Ask an adult to help you find leaf litter around the base of a tree, under a bush, or beside a path in a forest. Put on rubber gloves and collect a sample of leaf litter. Try to scoop up leaves from the bottom, middle, and top of the litter. Shake the container gently. This will cause any small worms, insects, or other crawling organisms to settle at the bottom of the container. Carefully pour the leaf litter onto a sheet of newspaper. Examine it, if possible, with a magnifying glass. Use the tweezers to gently separate the leaf litter as you examine it.


What did you find? Did you find any insects or other small animals in the leaf litter? What kinds did you find? What do you think these animals were doing in the leaf litter? Do you think you would find the same organisms in the leaf litter a month from now? Three months from now? Why or why not?