Activity of the month

Make an autumn leaf kaleidoscope

October is a beautiful month with the rich colours of autumn creating stunning views along the Promenade and out over the Avon Gorge.

Shiny red rosehips are ripening on the dog rose. Rosehips like these were collected on the Downs by children In the Second World War, as they were an important source of vitamin C – the seeds were also used to make itching powder by some pranksters! Mushrooms such as puff-balls and parasol fungi are starting to pop up in the woods and on the Downs. You may also find ‘fly agarics’- the fabulous red and white toadstools of fairy tales. Remember that some fungi are very poisonous though so don’t touch them!

The leaves on many of the trees start to turn red, gold and amber before falling. Trees that lose their leaves in the winter are called deciduous trees. Other trees are adapted to keep their leaves all year and so are called evergreen trees. These often have leaves that are needle-shaped like yew or have a waxy coating like holly.

This is a lovely time of year to go crunching through the colourful drifts of leaves. Why not find some particularly beautiful ones and bring them home to make an autumn leaf kaleidoscope? Download this month’s activity sheet to find out how!


You will need

  • Autumn leaves
  • A large paper cup
  • An A4 sheet of silver metallic card (available in craft shops)
  • A clear plastic lid large enough to fit over the end of your cup (the lid from a yogurt pot works well)
  • A sheet of tracing paper
  • Double sided tape
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors
  • A sharp pencil
  • A ruler
  • A scalpel
  • An adult helper

Step-by-step guide

1. Take your tracing paper and draw around the open end of your cup. Cut the tracing paper circle out and use autumn leaves to make a pattern on it using double-sided tape to stick the leaves down. Try not to overlap the leaves too much. This will allow the light to shine through them, giving them a lovely glow like a stained glass window.

2. Use a sharp pencil to make a hole in the bottom of your cup. Enlarge this hole by pushing a fatter pen through to create a viewing hole that you can look through easily

3. Turn your cup the other way up and measure 3.5 cm from the open end. Ask your adult helper to cut this end off with the scalpel – keep hold of this ring as it will hold your kaleidoscope lens.

4. Use the template on the back page to mark out this shape on the white side of your mirror card. Cut along the solid lines and score along the dotted lines. Fold the silver card to form an open ended triangular prism with the shiny side facing inwards.

5. Put your triangular prism into the cup – trim off any excess length. Stand the cup inside the card ring with the wider lip facing upwards.

6. Use a little double sided tape to secure your leafy tracing paper disk inside the plastic lid. This is your lens. Pull the ring up to the wide end of your cup and tape on the lens.

7. Hold your kaleidoscope up to the light and look through the hole in the small end. Rotate the lens ring to create different patterns in your kaleidoscope.

Photographs © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project.