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Toothpick hide-and-seek: see how a form of camouflage works.

THINK: Many animals have colors or markings on their fur or skin that enable them to blend in with their habitat. Can you name any animals that are color-coded to match their habitat?

PREDICT: Say you have an animal that is camouflaged to match a particular habitat. What do you think would happen if you were to release the animal in an entirely different habitat? Would the animal be easy or hard to find?


1. Divide the class into groups of four to five students.

2. Each group should gather its toothpicks and count out how many there are of each color. Write the total for each color on the board.

3. Your teacher will spread the toothpicks randomly over a large area. When your teacher gives permission, you will have 20 seconds to collect as many toothpicks as you can find and put them in a the bag.

4. Each group counts the number of each color toothpick that was found. Compare the number to the original numbers on the board and record your findings.

5. If possible, repeat steps 2 through 4 on a different type of surface. For example, if the experiment was first performed on grass, try it again on a snowy, rocky, or dirt area.


You'll Need

* Colored plastic toothpicks or hors d'oeuvre forks. Make sure there is at least 6 of each color toothpick or fork per group

* Plastic bag for collecting

* Stopwatch (or watch with a second hand)

* Access to a grassy, snowy, and/or dirt area

* Paper and pencil


1. Which toothpicks were easiest to find? Which were the hardest?

2. Did the color of the ground affect your ability to find certain toothpick colors? Explain.

3. Suppose you performed the experiment on a grassy area and then it snowed. If you tried the experiment again, would you get the same results? Why or why not?

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Title Annotation:hands-on
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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