I ring my chime to get the class’s attention. I announce that we were about to begin our next Science lesson about snails. I ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I share “What are the two types of snails we’re studying?” I wait for answers from the class. As expected, they answer “Land and Sea or Water”. I continued, “We observed them and noticed there are some important ways their habitats are different from each other. One of those ways is how a snail can match its habitat. I want you to take a minute and find a place around the class that matches what you are wearing.” I watch as the class spread around the classroom to various locations- next to the coat rack, under the table, near the bookshelf, etc. “Now think about why you chose these spots before you come back.” I ring the chime and ask the students to return back to their carpet squares.
“Was that fun? I did that to help you understand what the process of ‘camouflage’ is like. Camouflage is when and animal’s body is designed to match its surroundings to keep it safe”. Using four images I previously gathered from online resources, we briefly (2-3 minutes) look at the different snails and their unique habitats. I specifically chose the images because they were visually engaging and showed dramatically different snails and their settings.
To give the students valuable perspective, I pass them around the circle and had them examine the images further. As they look, I tell them, “See the different snail shells? What do you notice? How are they different?” and waited for answers. As expected, the children first notice the color, “Red” “Green” “White” “Yellow”. I explain, “This coloring helps them stay safe in their environment. This is a great example of camouflage. Nature designs it this way so living things can do their best to live safely and hide from predators (things that want to eat them). The right color also provides protection from overheating or getting too cold because darker shells heat up more quickly than lighter colored shells. This makes a difference in environments like.....” I wait for guesses. When none came, I point out the snails in the pictures that appear to live in places like sand (hot) and plants (cool). To give added context, I ask “What would happen to a snail that did not have good camouflage?” (“They would be killed”) “That’s exactly right. Charles Darwin developed the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. This means that only animals that are right for their environment survive..keep living.”
Once everyone had seen all pictures, I collect them. To deepen the concept, I ask them, “Why are the snail certain colors? What part of their habitat is determined by the shell? ”. (“The brown snail is on a brown branch. The green one lives on green leaves.”). I refer to the activity at the beginning of the lesson to help them process the concept of camouflage. “Why did you choose the places to hide?” (“Because nobody could see me underneath.” “My shirt was striped like the books.”). My goal of introducing and processing this idea was complete, so I ring the chime to move on to an implementation activity.
As they sit in their seats at the table, I walk around and talk, “It’s time for us to help some snails find the right home”. I pass out the snail shell/habitat worksheet. I want to keep this activity simple so the students could quickly practice the idea. “Your job is to make sure the snail has the safest place for it to live. You can do that by adding……” I wait a second or two to see if anyone in the class would share an answer. “Place?” “No, not place. See? There are already places on the worksheet. What can you add that isn’t already there? (“Color?”) “Absolutely right! You can add color to it. If you want to do more, you can also add a pattern, marks on the shell that help it blend to the surroundings.”
I pass out the papers and ask the children to work with a partner and decide which snail would be most likely to live in which habitat. The intent is to have the snail and habitat match in color. They must give reasons for their choices. I design the worksheet based wholly on the outlines of the snails and habitats they observed in the snail photos. A fun and easy alternative would be to find separate pictures of snails and appropriate habitats and have children match them. This would be more effective with colored pictures. I just couldn’t think of a way to do this without expensive color copying.
Once they all finish their papers, I ring the chime and ask them to bring their papers with them to their carpet squares. This time, I want to do a review with the whole group so the class and I could hear each others’ habitat justification. As I point to the long skinny snail, I asked “Who can tell me where this snail should live..and why?”
“The red snail lives in the ocean coral that’s the same color.” “Perfect. Now turn to two people near you and choose a different snail’s habitat to talk about. Be sure to include the ‘why’ part of your choice.”. I choose a triad for this sharing because it matches the amount of snails left on the sheet after my example. Once the sharing is complete, I get their attention with the chime and ask them to put away their paper before they come back to the carpets.