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Grade 4 Science: Camouflage

Article written by Jocelyn Whalen
New Brunswick Curriculum Outcomes: Science 204-3, 205-5, 205-10, 206-1, 302-2, 300-1

Imagine you’re walking through a forest and you hear an owl, “HOOTING,” in the distance.

You try to look as hard as you can but you can’t find the owl in the trees. What could this owl be doing by hiding in the trees and why?

Image by Kevsphotos from Pixabay

This lab requires very few supplies; pictures of animals in camouflage, paper butterfly cutouts, pencil crayons and tape. 

The classroom discussion starts with the question, “What is camouflage? Where have we seen camouflage before?”

You can start off by discussing real-life experiences with humans and camouflage. (ie. Hunting and military activities) Sometimes you can point out a student in the classroom who’s wearing camouflage or a pattern on their clothing.

Camouflage is a defence or tactic that organisms use to blend in with their surroundings. Also called cryptic coloration. 

You can ask the class, “Why do animals use camouflage?”

To avoid or frighten off predators and to surprise prey.

Hand out pictures of camouflaged animals and ask the students to find them.

Next, you can discuss the different ways of camouflaging:

Ask the students, “What is a pattern, blending, disguise and mimicry?” 

You can point out patterns in the classroom, on student’s clothing, etc. When talking about disguises, you can discuss Halloween and dressing up. Mimicry can be related to miming someone’s actions or words.

Patterns – when an animal’s colour markings make it more difficult to track

Blending – when an animal’s colour is similar to that of its surroundings

Disguise – when an animal looks like an object in its habitat

Mimicry – when an animal’s looks and behaviour imitate something else that may look more dangerous

Use the pictures you handed out earlier and ask the students to determine what type of camouflage the animals are using. 

Hand out paper butterflies and ask the students to colour them to match something in the classroom. The teacher will step outside of the classroom and the students will camouflage their butterflies around the room for the teacher to find:

  • Provide the students with some creative ideas as to where they can camouflage their butterflies (ie. on a stack of books)
  • Ask the students to write their names on the back of their butterflies if you’d like to keep track of who’s butterfly has been found in the classroom
  • You can make this activity into a fun competition and even offer a prize to the student with the last butterfly found in the room

Students enjoy taking part in this lesson! They like learning about new animals and camouflage, and they like hiding their butterflies around the classroom.

This lesson helps students to understand the different types of camouflage and their uses in nature. It’s a hands-on activity that can get students moving around the classroom. 

>>> Download your free butterfly colouring printable here.

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