Life Science Curriculum K-7
Submitted by: Jonathan Oliva
Institution: Azusa Pacific University
Title of Experiment: Camouflage and Adaptation
One box of assorted colored toothpicks,
preferably 100-125 toothpicks of each color (blue, green, yellow, red)
Outdoor grassy area or a large piece of fabric or Astroturf
Paper snake or butterfly patterns for each student
Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
Scientific Background of Experiment:
Adaptation is defined as the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce in its environment with its given genetic characteristics. One of the key components of adaptation is the organism's ability to blend in with its environment. Camouflage allows an organism to blend in with its surroundings. If the organism's outward appearance matches the outward appearance of the environment, the organism is said to be camouflage. This causes difficulty for predators in finding their prey because the prey is hidden within the colors of the environment.
This experiment demonstrates how camouflage relates to adaptation. The first activity demonstrates the predators' difficulty in finding prey that is camouflage. The second activity will demonstrate how well the students understand the concepts behind this experiment. It is important to know why some organisms live where they live.
For outside portion of the experiment:
1) Assort the toothpicks into color groups and count the total number of toothpicks for each color. Record the totals on a board or on paper.
2) The instructor will gather all toothpicks and spread them out randomly over the designated area.
3) Gather around the border of the designated area.
4) As a class, the instructor will give all students 10-15 seconds to gather as many toothpicks as they can.
5) Count the number of each color toothpick that was retrieved and record below the original numbers.
6) Compare the number of gathered versus the original number for each color.
7) Organize and write a data table showing the number of "captured" versus the number of "surviving" for each color.
For inside portion of the experiment:
1) Obtain a paper copy of a snake or butterfly pattern and cut it out.
2) Pretend the room is a wild habitat. Each student will choose a different part of the room for his/her organism's habitat.
3) Color the snake or butterfly pattern with markers, crayons, or colored pencils so that it will be camouflage in the selected habitat.
4) Without burying them, place the snake or butterfly pattern in the selected habitat. The snake or butterfly must be out in the open, hidden only by its coloring or patterns.
5) The next day, see how many of the snakes or butterflies can be found.
Misc. Helpful Information/ Hints/ Suggestions:
It is suggested that the students have been given a lesson on habitats and predator/prey relationships prior to this experiment. Something that will help the students grasp the concept of camouflage and adaptation is to have pictures (from text books or magazines) of organisms that are camouflage.
The toothpick activity of this experiment will work best if it is done using an outdoor grassy area. The second activity will work best if students have access to a set of markers, crayons, or colored pencils with a wide variety of colors. In the second activity, it is suggested that the instructor chooses a few students to color their snake or butterfly in a way that it could be easily found. Some organisms use their color to attract others of the opposite sex of the same species or use their color as a warning to other species (i.e. poisonous frogs).
The last suggestion for this experiment is to have post-experiment discussion questions. Here are some possible questions:
1) Which toothpicks were easiest to find and which were the hardest to find? Why?
2) If this experiment were repeated, what colors of toothpick would be expected to be captured the most? The least? Why?
3) How do you think an organism will protect itself from a predator if it is not camouflage?
4) What animals can you think of that are camouflage?