Gratitude Leaves

Purchase We Are Grateful / Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell at Bookmarks.

The Cherokee community is grateful for blessings and challenges that each season brings. This is modern Native American life as told by an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

We Are Grateful is a beautiful book to share with children of all ages. Pre-K and elementary students will especially enjoy learning about the Cherokee community and the gratitude they show in every season. It’s a wonderful reminder to be grateful every day. Frané Lessac illustrates the book with painted trees, showcasing each season as the pages turn. The changing leaves were the inspiration for this art project!


  • leaves
  • assorted materials for leaf decoration: white paint, oil pastels, and/or metallic pens
  • small paintbrush
  • sheet of white cardstock
  • glue stick or craft glue
  • thin marker


click images for larger view

  • Collect leaves from the trees. The ones on the ground will be too brittle.
  • Press the leaves between pages of a heavy book.
  • Wait 3+ days for the pressed leaves to dry.
  • Choose a medium to decorate your leaves. For different skill levels, there are three examples. 
  • Oil Pastels: Color blocks of color in a pattern on to the leaves. Good for Pre-K or Elementary.
  • Metallic Pens/Markers: Draw patterns on the leaves. Good for Pre-K or Elementary.
  • Paint: Use a small paintbrush and paint patterns on the leaves with white paint. Good for Elementary.
  • Once you are finished adding patterns to the leaves, arrange them on a sheet of cardstock. 
  • Glue to the paper. For thicker leaves, like oak, you will need craft glue. A glue stick works well for thin leaves. Be careful when you’re spreading the glue – the leaves are brittle and can break. 
  • Talk about what you are grateful for with a friend or family member. 
  • Use a thin marker to write what you are grateful for around the leaves. 


  • You don’t have to stop with your gratitudes! Keep writing, circling around the leaves, filling up the background.
  • Write the gratitudes straight or diagonal in the background.
  • Instead of adding patterns to the leaves, write what you are grateful for on the leaves and draw patterns on the white background. 


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