The Moth Catcher Class Activity: Cryptic Coloration
Florida State Standards aligned with this activity:
*SC.3.N.1.1 Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them individually and in teams through free exploration and systematic investigations, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations.
*SC.4.N.1.3 Explain that science does not always follow a rigidly defined method ("the scientific method") but that science does involve the use of observations and empirical evidence.
*SC.5.L.15 Describe how, when the environment changes, differences between individuals allow some plants and animals to survive and reproduce while others die or move to new locations
*SC.5.L.17.1 Compare and contrast adaptations displayed by animals and plants that enable them to survive in different environments such as life cycles variations, animal behaviors and physical characteristics.
This activity was always a big hit, even with my Freshman Biology class. It's one of those activities that can be done with almost any level of student. A brilliant educator and former colleague of mine, Carol Collins, first introduced it to me. It's a simple and fun way to teach about camouflage in nature (also known as cryptic coloration). You can use this activity as a bridge to the character of Praying Mantis in my book, A Pilgrimage of Pests. After all, he is
Meadowfield's master of 'hide and seek'.
Time: approximately 30 minutes
Materials: plain paper, scissors, colored pencils or markers, clear tape, pattern of the moth (pattern is provided to download from the link at the bottom of page).
1. Student uses the moth pattern to cut out their moth from plain paper. You can have these cut-out already to save time and remove scissors from the activity.
2. Each student looks around the room to find a spot where they can place their moth and blend it with the background so it won't be seen. Example: on a poster or a book cover.
3. Once they have decided where to 'hide' their moth, they color it to match the background as best as they can. After writing their first and last name to the underside of their moth, they carefully tape their moth onto its new surroundings. It must be in plain sight, however, i.e. not under anything or partially covered. I always made the student desks, especially mine, off limits.
4. Once everyone has their moth in place, invite the Moth Catcher into the room. I always invited another teacher or administer to be our moth catcher. Give them an appropriate period of time to walk about the room as they try to 'catch' as many moths as they can find. Five minutes is usually about right.
5. You can give rewards to those that did not get caught (preyed upon). Collect all moths and tape each one on a survival vs. captured chart to provide a visual display of the class results.
Follow-up with class discussion. For example: Why did some moths survive and others were caught? Were there any noticeable patterns among those that survived vs. those that were caught? During the discussion, you may want to introduce a few scientific principles like survival of the fittest.
Click on button below to download the moth pattern.
Click on the button below to take you to a National Geographic website about how animals use camouflage in nature.