A newspaper pond with colorful fish and newspaper fish helped my students understand the meaning of camouflage. They became the hunter hawks having to snatch up as many fish as possible in 5 seconds.
Materials Needed and Directions : Newspaper with mostly black and white print. Fish ( or rabbits or other animal shapes) cut from a die cutter. ( We have an Ellison Die Cut.) Cut at least 100 to spread over the newspaper first. Then, cut about half as many from colored paper. Spread these on top. The idea is to not overlap any of the newspaper fish and make the eye focus on the colored fish. I covered the whole thing with a layer of a newspaper page so students don't look at the fish pond. Be Sneaky! I put my pond together during recess so it was done before students walked in. That way, no one catches on before you begin!
Begin!: I invited them to the fish pond in groups of about 9 or 10. They should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder around the pond. I had the rest of the students busy reading science non fiction books as they waited their turn. I asked them to stand around the pond with their backs to the pond. I told them not to look at it at all as I lifted the newspapers. I told them when I counted to three they could turn around and pick up as many fish as they could as I counted. The mad scramble began!
After I counted to five and stopped them, they returned to a seat with their fish. I asked them to separate their fish. They counted the colored fish and the newspaper fish, and wrote the amounts in their notebooks. Then, I rotated the groups and did it again! It was fun to see how each group reacted and how each hunted. Some students were so aggressive and some were totally picky.
It was now time to share our thinking, whole class.
The students were so excited about our little game, but I needed to get them focused on the goal of the lesson and so I asked them to come and sit to see a fantastic video of an octopus. As they watched the video, I asked them to think about these questions:
What purpose does this adaptation serve in the octopus's survival?
Is an octopus a vertbrate or invertebrate?
After the movie, I asked them to answer the questions in a group discussion. After the last question, I asked, "How would having a spine impair the octopus from living in its environment and surviving?"
They understood that it needed to push itself into small spaces in order to hunt or hide and that a rigid spine would probably get in the way. This question got them thinking about vertebrates since they had thought an octopus was a vertebrate. It was important for them to see that spines create a level of rigidity to a creature. I also wanted them to marvel at the idea that all things are created with specialized parts for a purpose and that thinking about that helps us understand the world better.
To move the focus back on our goal of understanding camouflage, I asked them how they depended on their eyes to hunt the fish in the fish pond. What attracted them first? What did they grab first?
They already understood they had more colored fish in their piles each time. Some had difficulty understanding why that was going on, but students supported each other by explaining that the colored fish were easy to grab because you could see them. They helped each other with discussing how the camouflaged fish were caught, but not as easily. They connected it to real life and how animals are able to camouflage themselves to keep themselves protected. The goal of the lesson was mastered!!!
I thought it would be fun to take the class data and make a line plot so they could easily see the difference in numbers between the colored fish and the newspaper fish. But, I didn't have enough board! I would start lower on the board next time! But this was fun and they enjoyed sharing their numbers out loud. We laughed at how many x's the colored fish had, especially after I had to make another row!
Using the Butterfly Template, I asked students to pick a spot in the room and create a butterfly that would be completely camouflaged. Students cut out their butterfly pattern and began finding a place to trace against,matching the color and patterns as closely as possible so that the butterfly would disappear in the room. I told them to ignore their classmates as much as possible, only pay attention to their own work, and to do it in silence. They set to work, working around each other to trace, color and create. When they were done, I instructed them to put their name on the back of the butterfly and turn it in.
When all were turned in, I took the butterflies, found the place they used for camouflage and taped the butterflies to those places. They disappear very well! I leave them up the rest of the year and it is fun to see how long it takes everyone to notice them. It's surprising how they blend in!
This activity is just a fun way to wrap up a lesson on camouflage and mimicry, but, also helps students to be the creators of camouflage.