Camouflage challenge

Hide modelling clay of different colours and learn about different kinds of camouflage. Can be run outdoors, or indoors in a visually busy space.
Science content
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Biology: Evolution, Natural Selection (7)
  • either outdoors: area of grass, rocky ground, tree roots or other outdoor area with a somewhat complex texture
  • or indoors: classroom or common area which includes visually busy areas e.g. art supplies, board signage
  • square made from four pipe cleaners
  • modelling clay of different colours (including brown and black for outdoor activity)

Please note that in a class of students it is likely that one of them is at least partially colourblind (1 in 12 males are colourblind). As this is an activity distinguishing colours, these students will not be able to tell some colours apart and perceive some colours differently, although the activity will be no less interesting for them. The common red/green colour blindness means reds and greens (or colours containing reds and greens such as browns) look similar. More information at and

This is an engaging activity. Student get involved in creating works of art that look like the surroundings.

Students work in pairs, or maximum groups of three. Each group has a pipe cleaner square and a tub of small pieces of modelling clay in a variety of colours.
Each group decides where to place their pipe cleaner square.

While one (or two) student(s) looks away, the other student makes a small ball of modelling clay of one colour, and places it in the square. The clay cannot have anything placed on top of it - it must be in plain sight.
The second student then looks and tries to find the clay.
Then the students switch tasks.
Black and brown modelling clay is often the hardest to find outdoors, matching the dirt between grass blades.
This kind of camouflage is an example of "colour matching". Animals are often colour matched to their environment to make them harder to find.

Another kind of camouflage is "disruptive colouration" where a living thing is more than one colour, maybe with spots or stripes. The different colours break up the outline of the living thing and make it harder to see.
Another level of camouflage is to have an "irregular outline", so the shape of the object is not what is expected. Some fish have decorated heads, or insects look like a leaf.
Students can try adding these layers of camouflage to their colour matching, by adding different colours of clay and changing the shape of their clay before hiding it. The final object should be about the same size of the first ball (as a tiny speck of clay will be an unfair challenge).

Examples of outdoor variations that students came up with: making a long piece of clay to look like a stick on the ground, or a piece of gray and black clay shaped to look like other little rocks on the ground, matching the colour of peeling paint on a fence, or even matching the colour of bird poop on a rock! (see this website for animals camouflaging to look like bird poop:…)
Examples of indoor variations include hiding colours in a collection of coloured art supplies, or adding extra coloured patches to coloured tags. Posters or other flat materials are easier for finding hidden clay on, as the clay is the only raised part and reflects the light differently.

Students can spend quite a while making works of art that can be a challenge to find by most in the class. Student groups and adults will enjoy visiting particularly challenging hides.

Please note the likelihood of a colourblind student in the class. Colourblindness can also be an advantage:…….

Animals using different methods of camouflage:

Webpages with lists of camouflage types:


Ks have fun with this activity, though tend to choose their clay colour first, then find a place to hide it, which often makes it too easy to find. (Maybe limit their clay colours to those in the environment?)

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Gr 7