Students will be able to understand the importance of coloration in the ways animals are adapted.
This activity is best performed as a follow-up to Insect Design. Review aspects of the general external morphology of an insect as learned in the previous activity.
Explore Great Sand Dunes' web page on Insects for more on the unique endemic species of the park.
Small sticks, twigs, leaves, dirt, rocks, glue, masking tape, markers
Only collect natural materials from the ground. Please do not take materials from living things.
Gather enough leaves, sticks, twigs, pebbles, and rocks from the ground in your school yard to enable each student to create a stick insect.
Select a trail or walkway around the school or playground. It should be about 80 feet long. Walk it with the students. Let students know that they are going to make insects that should blend in against the background vegetation and/or geology. They will not be able to cover their insects with anything, but will place their insect within five feet of either side of the trail.
Give students 30 to 45 minutes to create their insects. If glue is used to produce their insects, allow plenty of time to dry. Using thin strips of masking tape and then using markers (or paint) to camouflage the tape may be an alternative. Have an aid or parent volunteer escort students one at a time to hide their insects along the trail.
Once everyone has finished and secretly placed their insect on the trail, challenge the students to find as many of the insects as possible. Tell the students not to speak, but to silently take note of the insects they have seen and to make a list describing what the insects they spotted looked like. Collect the lists. Now let each student point out his or her insect.
Which ones were the most difficult to see? Discuss why they were difficult to see.
Discuss why some insects were easier to spot than others. For those insects that were spotted easily, bring up the topic of adverse coloration-colors that attract attention. Explain that some organisms are colored for visibility and that adverse colorations tell predators that they would be an untasty or even poisonous meal. Can you think of any insects that have adverse coloration?