Guest blogger Amy Koester of The Show Me Librarian blog returns with her monthly series!  This series focuses on weaving STEM principles and concepts into the arts & crafts programs youth services librarians are already doing.  We just love these program ideas, and I think you will too! ~Katie

by Amy Koester

It seems whenever I open our children’s craft cabinet, a coffee filter or two falls down at my feet. We keep them around for plenty of activities, and they immediately sprung to mind when I saw this octopus video and thought, “Camouflage program!” Who knows why my brain went from octopus camouflage to coffee filters, but it turned out to be a pretty successful non sequitur.

Researching Camo Color Choices

Researching Camo Color Choices


Intended for school-age audiences

The arts and crafts aspect:

Grab a stack of coffee filters; any size and shape will work. Give children washable markers and let them color to their hearts’ content all over the filters. When they’re finished coloring, give the filter a few mists from a spray bottle filled with water; this causes the colors to bleed and blend a bit, adding an interesting abstract effect to the artwork.

The STEM hack:

Instead of having kids color in the coffee filters for art’s sake, give them a goal: camouflage!

Before the STEAM craft portion of this camouflage program, introduce the children to the various types of camouflage that occur in the animal world. There are four types of natural camouflage, each with a different method of protecting animals that might prefer to remain unnoticed:

  • concealing coloration – allows an animal to conceal itself in its surroundings, like a tree frog against the green leaves of trees
  • disruptive coloration – allows one animal to appear relatively indistinguishable from others in a group, like a single zebra in a herd
  • disguise – allows an animal to conceal itself by resembling something else, like a walking stick insect appearing like a stick on a tree
  • mimicry – allows a relatively harmless animal to resemble an animal that is dangerous to predators, like a non-poisonous viceroy butterfly resembling a poisonous monarch butterfly

I aim to show plenty of photographic examples of each type of camouflage to help children truly comprehend how coloring can create an illusion. This introduction to natural camouflage is interesting and age-appropriate animal science, with additional opportunities to talk about how eyes work.

Testing High Desert Camouflage

Testing High Desert Camouflage

Now it’s time for the STEAM craft: creating our own camouflage designs for several different scenarios. I used a projector to show our camouflage scenarios on a bare wall: coral reef, forest, and desert. I showed each of these landscapes several times to give children a chance to choose the colors they wanted for their camouflage, at which point they got to work on their designs. After the initial coloring was done, each camouflage pattern got a mist of water to blur the edges and create a more natural effect. While all the filters dried, the kids went out into the library for a visual scavenger hunt for some well-known hiders: Waldo, Carmen Sandiego, Nemo, etc., all of whom were concealing themselves in the library. Upon completion of this scavenger hunt, the children returned to the program room to test the efficacy of their camouflage patterns against the scenario backdrops. Coral reef camouflage seemed to be the most difficult to create due to everything having a tinge of sandy blue.

That’s how we hacked a pretty standard craft to add STEAM interest via the topic of animal camouflage. Your eyes don’t deceive you: it was a fun and successful STEAM program.


Amy Koester Profile Photo

Amy Koester is the Children’s Librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles (MO) City-County Library District. She shares youth services programs and library musings as the Show Me Librarian, and she shares a STEM program every month on the ALSC Blog. She served on the 2014 Newbery Committee.

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