Camouflage challenge

Hide modelling clay of different colours on the ground outdoors and learn about different kinds of camouflage
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)
Lessons activity is in
  • area of grass, rocky ground, tree roots or other outdoor area with a somewhat complex texture
  • square made from four pipe cleaners
  • modelling clay of different colours, including brown and black

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, matching the dirt between grass blades.
This 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 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, or even matching the colour of peeling paint on a fence.

Students can spend quite a while making works of art that can be a challenge to find by most in the class.

Animals using all these methods of camouflage on this website:…

Grades taught
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Gr 7
Teaching site
Tyee Elementary