Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Yarn, four different colors
- Timepiece (seconds)
Preparation for Activity
- Determine where this activity will take place. Outdoors is ideal, but not required. If inside, a large space that include other items (like toys) is preferred.
- Choose two colors of yarn that blend well with the environment where you will play this game, e.g. greens and browns for outdoors. Choose two other colors that are very bright and easy to spot.
- Cut the yarn into four-inch lengths, approximately 20 of each color. It's important that each color have the same number of pieces.
- Place the cut pieces of yarn around the space, tucking them into and around the area.
Description of Activity
This activity demonstrates natural selection by engaging participants in a scenario that requires reasoning. The entire concept of natural selection may be difficult for young children to grasp; the main objective is to demonstrate that those individuals that blend with their environments are less likely to be caught by predators. More of the "blenders" tend to survive and therefore have an opportunity to reproduce.
Tell participants they are going on a hunt-a hunt for woolly worms. Say, in your own words:
All around the country, especially in the Northeast, we see caterpillars that are called woolly worms or woolly bears. They will become a moth, if they are not eaten. We're going to pretend that pieces of yarn are the caterpillars and you are birds! The caterpillars are all around this room. How many can you find?
IMPORTANT: Do not show them a sample! Let them discover the worms on their own.
Let them know that this is not a competition. You will collect all the woolly worms they each find. Give participants no more than 30 seconds to hunt for woolly worms. It's important that "predators" do not have enough time to catch all of the "prey". Show them the area they can search and set the timer.
Gather everyone together and collect the pieces of yarn. Have children sort them out by color. Together, count how many of each color were found.
Process the activity with these questions:
- What did we discover today?
- What would be the reason for finding more of one color and less of another? What colors of woolly worms were easy to find? What colors were difficult to find? Why?
- How does the yarn compare to real caterpillars? Why do you think it would be beneficial to blend with your environment?
Including All Participants
Participants with limited mobility can take a role in collecting, sorting, and counting the woolly worms others find.