Camouflage, Countershading, and Adaptations

Contributor
Education in Nature
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This resource provides some background information and discussion questions about camouflage and countershading as an example of penguin adaptation. Then students engage in an experiment to simulate the effectiveness of blubber as an insulator against the cold temperatures penguins typically experience. A worksheet is provided that explains other penguin adaptations and asks comprehension questions based on the text.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 3
  • Grade 2
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students explore the effectiveness of fat as an insulator in this activity, but do not collect data to support an argument. The activity could be extended to include temperature data collection and testing the insulating ability of other materials. This would provide opportunities to argue the effectiveness of one insulator versus another.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Teachers might begin the lesson with a scientists meeting centered around the question: "How do penguins protect themselves from predators?" teacher might record students initial thinking on a piece of chart paper. Students could then watch the video and add to their chart. At this point students might say something about the coloring of the penguins, from which the words camouflage and countershading could be introduced and discussed. Students might create an explanation about how countershading helps the penguin survive in the wild.

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
To better address "Engaging in Argument From Evidence" students might first construct an explanation about how "blubber" is used for survival by penguins. Teachers could take this a step further by having students test and evaluate different insulating materials. Materials might include similar ones (butter, margarine, or coconut cream), or others (detergent, moisturizer, shredded paper) to engage students in making predictions about and/or investigating the properties of tested materials.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity includes information about a variety of external penguin structures and explores the insulating value of an internal structure, blubber.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students experience the insulating effects of fat (solid vegetable shortening) in this activity, but the teacher would have to make explicit the connections between structure and function.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity provides a meaningful model for an internal structure (blubber) that can inspire students to investigate and understand the DCI of Structure and Function. Teachers wanting to incorporate additional dimensions of the NGSS would be able to extend this lesson with a quantitative investigation using different insulating materials. This could incorporate the practice of constructing an argument/engaging in argument from evidence, or using a model to test system interactions. An additional lesson plan (Structured to Survive) on the Education in Nature website addresses the same Performance Expectation, inlcuding a worksheet aimed at helping students to distinguish between behavioral and structural adaptations.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity includes background information and a reading comprehension sheet covering a variety of penguin adaptations. Detailed instructions are provided for a simple investigation of the insulating properties of fat. Discussion questions and some teacher background information is provided. Although there are two suggestions for extensions, little guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction is provided. A practical note: it might be challenging to spoon the shortening into the bags, followed by inserting the second bag into the shortening and sealing it. The teacher might prepare the “mitts” ahead of time, and once the bag is sealed, it is important to evenly distribute the shortening.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A few suggestions for teacher questions are provided, and the worksheet could provide some assessment of student understanding of penguin adaptations (answer key is provided). If the activity were extended to investigate different materials and/or collect data, a data collection table and rubric would be beneficial.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: A brief video is linked to this activity, but it has limited value beyond engaging younger learners.