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Survival of the Mutant Toad Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ANM0205
Submitted by: Retha M. Edens
Email: edensrm@slu.edu
School/University/Affiliation: Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri

Date: November 8, 2000

Grade Level: 3, 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Animals

Duration: Two 45-minute sessions

Description: The purpose of this lesson is to learn about camouflage and how it is essential for certain animals’ survival. The lesson involves using white and brown beans. The white beans represent albino toads, and the brown beans represent pigmented toads. The beans are distributed outside in an earthy environment. Students have one minute to search for the beans. Students count the beans that are recovered and share their results. The importance of pigmentation and camouflage is discussed.

Goals: To learn about the importance of camouflage. To increase students’ knowledge about toads, habitats, predators, and prey.


  • Cognitive: Students will develop an understanding of the importance of camouflage for toad survival.
  • Affective: Students will develop an appreciation for toads and their importance in an ecosystem.
  • Psychomotor: Students will collect beans (toads) from an outside area and graph the results.
  • Materials:

    • 100 white beans (navy beans)
    • 100 brown beans (pinto beans)
    • containers to hold the beans
    • terrarium containing toads (optional)
    • state map
    • graphing paper
    • pencils


  • camouflage – the coloration and/or shape of an organism which allows that organism to blend in with its surroundings (also known as cryptic coloration)
  • albino – an organism lacking pigmentation
  • amphibian – cold-blooded vertebrates belonging to the Class Amphibia. (Amphibians spend part of their life on land and part of their life in water.)
  • vertebrates – an animal that has a vertebral column
  • pigmentation – having pigments, or color
  • predator – an organism that kills and eats other organisms
  • prey – organisms that are killed and eaten by other organisms
  • Procedure:
    If possible, set up a classroom terrarium containing a non mutant toad and a mutant toad. If a mutant toad lacking pigmentation cannot be located, substitute a white object similar in size to the non mutant toad and include this object in the terrarium. Provide background information about toads. Explain that most toads have color in their skin (pigmentation) and are camouflaged. Inform students that occasionally toads lack color in their skin and are known as albino toads. Define the terms predator and prey. Share information with the students about which organisms eat toads and what toads eat. Discuss how coloration allows toads to blend in very well with their environment, with camouflage being important for survival. Using a state map, identify the geographic distribution of toads. Allow students to observe and hold the toads. [Students are to wash their hands after handling the toads and upon completion of the bean activity.]

    Prior to class, disperse 100 white beans and 100 brown beans in a mulched or dirt-covered area near the school. The area should be large enough so that the students have enough space to safely collect the beans (toads). Inform students that they are going to go outside and pretend to be toad predators. The students have one minute to collect beans (toads). After each successful capture, the student is to stand upright and place the bean (toad) in a container. The student may then capture another bean (toad). After collecting toads for one minute, ask the students to bring their toads into the classroom. Students will count the toads of each color. Display the totals on the board, and graph the results. Questions you might ask include: Were there more white or brown beans recovered? How does this activity demonstrate the importance of camouflage?

    Students can develop an amphibian portfolio. In their portfolio, students can include answers to the following questions:

  • Why is camouflage important for a toad’s survival?
  • What function do toads serve in the ecosystem?
  • What did you like best about the brown bean/white bean activity?
  • Describe how the toad’s skin felt when you held the live toad.
  • Why do most animals avoid eating toads?
  • Why was it important that you washed your hands after handling the live toad?
  • To expand this portfolio, additional amphibians such as frogs and salamanders may be observed. Similar questions about these animals can be included in the portfolio. In addition, students can research why frogs, toads, and salamanders are called amphibians. Students can compare and contrast amphibians to other animal classes.

    Assessment: Students can be assessed on their comprehension of the vocabulary words in this lesson. In addition, students may be asked to reflect in their journal why they think camouflage is important for a toad’s survival. Students may draw pictures of toads in their habitats. If students are encouraged to observe toads living in a classroom terrarium and asked to draw and color the toads, observation skills as well as fine motor skills may be developed. From this activity, students may ask questions about the toads which could lead to additional research.

    Special Comments: Ideas for lesson extensions: guest speaker to speak about toads, field trip to a zoo, field trip to a conservation area, amphibian video presentation, or an amphibian learning center in the classroom. Students could also research problems amphibians are facing today, such as extinction, extra limbs, and other malformations.