Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Blending in & Standing Out

Students tend to be fascinated by colors and patterns of organisms, and by thinking and learning about these and other adaptive strategies. Colors and patterns in nature are a great entry point to understand adaptations. This activity focuses on how organisms’ patterns and colors help them stand out or blend in with their environment, and how this helps them survive. Students observe the main colors in the landscape, then search for plastic animals hidden there, noticing which blend in with their surroundings and which stand out. Then, students discuss what made the animals blend in or stand out, construct explanations for how this could help the animals survive, and learn four categories for color and pattern adaptations: camouflage, mimicry, warning, and attraction. Students apply these concepts as they search for real organisms in the area, then discuss how patterns and coloration might help the organisms survive in their habitat.

Ideally, this activity should be part of a series of learning experiences on adaptations, after an activity that introduces the concept of adaptation, such as Adaptations Intro-Live, and/or Whacky Adapty, and followed by activities like Structures & Behaviors, Related & Different, Discovery Swap and Interview an Organism.

Students will:
  • Take part in a “Colors Hunt,” recording the main colors in the environment.
  • Sort organisms into the categories “Blends in” or “Stands out,” then discuss how blending in or standing out from the environment might help them survive.
  • Learn the terms “camouflage, mimicry, warning, and attraction,” then apply them while observing real organisms.
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Blending In & Standing Out