Race For Survival

All animals have features that help them survive. Some animals use camouflage to hide from predators or to lure unsuspecting prey. In this activity, kids are predators in search of prey. Find out just how important camouflage is in the true race for survival!

  • Target Age: 8-10
  • Skills/Subjects: Science
  • Related Episode: Episode 315: Feeling Sheepish, Ruff?


1.  Get what you need:

  • Activity sheet PDF (347K) for each kid
  • Group Data Tables (see "Prepare ahead")
  • Chart paper and marker
  • Pencils (one per kid)
  • Newspaper (black and white with few images, e.g., the classified section)
  • Patterned wrapping paper (approx. 3' x 4' piece, plus extra)
  • Colored paper (a few sheets of three colors-they should stand out from the pattern of the wrapping paper)
  • Cups (two per team, labeled "Habitat #1" and "Habitat #2")
  • Masking tape
  • Examples of camouflage from books or the Internet

2. Prepare ahead:
Tape together a square, arch, and triangle out of index cards, and test each one for strength and stability. Push down on them and rock them side to side. Choose one shape to build with-the one you think will make the strongest, most stable structure. Follow the building rules below.

  • Make the habitats. Use two equal-sized rectangles (at least 3' x 4' each). Make one with newspaper, the other with a multicolored, patterned wrapping paper. Tape them to the floor a few feet apart.
  • Make five kinds of prey.
    Cut small squares (roughly 1" x 1") of each of the following:

    • Newspaper-made from the same paper as the habitat (60 pieces)
    • Wrapping Paper-made from the same paper as the habitat (60 pieces)
    • Color #1 (120 pieces, 60 per habitat)Habitat #2 with prey
    • Color #2 (120 pieces, 60 per habitat)
    • Color #3 (120 pieces, 60 per habitat)

    Sprinkle the newspaper squares in the newspaper habitat, and the wrapping paper squares in the wrapping paper habitat. (Make sure the wrapping paper pieces are pattern-side up. If the white side shows, the results of the game will be inaccurate.) Sprinkle 60 squares of each color in both habitats.

  • Mark a starting line. Run a line of masking tape across the floor, about 12 feet away from each habitat.
  • Find examples of camouflage. Use pictures in books or images printed from the Internet.
  • Make a Group Data Table for each habitat. Include a column for each team so you can record the results of both races. See examples below.

 Group Data Tables

3. Introduce Ruff's challenge:
Tell kids that today's challenge is to learn about animal habitats and survival. Explain that they are going to be predators in search of prey in two different habitats. Ask:

  • What is a habitat? (An environment in which an animal can find food, water, and shelter, and can raise its young)
  • What is a predator? (An animal that hunts and eats other animals)
  • What is prey? (An animal hunted and eaten by another animal)
  • Can an animal be both predator and prey? (Yes: a frog is a predator that hunts insects, but it's also the prey of snakes and birds.)

4. Race for prey in Habitat #1: Newspaper:
Explain that this is a relay race. The goal is for each team to collect as much prey as possible. Hand out the activity sheet and review the rules:

  • Line up with your team behind the starting line.
  • When you hear "Go!," the first person runs to the habitat, grabs the first prey in sight, carries it back to the starting line, and puts it into the cup.
  • Once the prey is in the cup, it's the next person's turn.
  • Pick up only once piece of prey on each turn.
  • Go as fast as you can until you hear "Stop!"

5. Race for prey in Habitat #2: Wrapping paper:
Have teams set aside the prey collected in Habitat #1. Run the race again using Habitat #2.

6. Share results and discuss what happened:
Have teams sort and count their prey from the first race and fill in the data table for Habitat #1 (see below) on their activity sheets. Gather as a group. Record each team's data on the Group Data Table (see "Prepare ahead").

Data Table for Habitat #1

7. Make a prediction:
Based on results from Habitat #1, ask kids to make a prediction about Habitat #2. Before they sort and count prey from the second race, ask these questions about Habitat #1:

  • Which pieces of prey were the easiest to see from a distance? (The colored paper)
  • Which pieces were the hardest to see? (The newspaper)
  • What do you think the results will be for Habitat #2? (We'll collect more pieces of colored paper, fewer pieces of wrapping paper.)

Now have teams sort and count their prey from the second race and fill in the data table for Habitat #2 (see below) on their activity sheets. Record all data on the Group Data Table. Ask: Do the results reflect our prediction? (Answers will vary.)

Data Table for Habitat #2

8. Explore Camouflage:

  • Find out what kids already know about animal survival and write answers on a sheet of chart paper. Ask:
  • Can you name some predators? (Answers will vary.)
  • What prey do they eat? (Answers will vary.)
  • How does an animal's color help it or make it harder to survive? (If an animal is easy to see, it becomes a target for predators.)
  • Does anyone know what camouflage is? (The way in which an animal blends in with its surroundings)

Tell kids that in the Race for Survival, they were predators, preying on different types of animals. The paper that blended in to the habitat was harder to see and less likely to be collected-just as animals who are able to camouflage themselves are harder to see and have a better chance of surviving. Using chart paper, record and discuss some of the different ways an animal's appearance helps it hide from predators.

  • Concealing coloration (An animal's color matches its surroundings; e.g., fish that are gray or blue are difficult to see in glistening water.)
  • Disruptive coloration (An animal has a pattern that confuses its predators; e.g., when zebras run in herds, their stripes confuse predators.)
  • Disguise (An animal looks like something in its environment; e.g., a walking stick looks just like a twig.)
  • Mimicry (A harmless animal resembles a dangerous animal; e.g., a harmless fly that looks just like a stinging honeybee.)


All living things have features that help them survive. Some animals have the ability to camouflage themselves-they have colors, patterns, and textures that help them blend into their surroundings, making it difficult for others to see them. (A gecko's rough, brown body looks just like tree bark.) Some animals use mimicry to hide-their colors and markings make them look like dangerous animals. (The harmless viceroy butterfly looks just like the poisonous monarch butterfly.) These features are critical for survival-they help animals hide from predators to avoid becoming their next meal!

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