BUILD-A-FOOD-CHAIN ACTIVITIES

BUILD A FOOD CHAIN USING TROPHIC LEVELS OF THE FOOD CHAIN

This activity focuses on the trophic levels of the food chain: producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, and sometimes quaternary consumers.

Use the graphic to the right to remind yourself of the trophic levels of the food chain.

We describe two ways of approaching the activity: The Lab Assignment and the Field Assignment. 

The Lab Assignment calls on your memory and imagination. This is the model to use if you cannot get outside to look around at the producers and consumers in your neighborhood. You can do this activity in your classroom, at home, or anywhere else you might happen to be indoors.

The Field Assignment encourages you to get outside and look around at the natural elements of the world that surround you. Make notes about what you see so you can build your food chain.

This can be an individual or group activity.


GATHER YOUR DATA

LAB ASSIGNMENT

IMAGINE: Think of as many plants, insects, and animals as you can that live in your neighborhood. Think about where your might see them.

If you live in a busy city, who are your urban nonhuman neighbors? What kind of plants are there? Ivy, grass, trees? What about insects? Are there flies, mosquitos, spiders, or cockroaches? And birds? Are there sparrows, pigeons, or falcons? What about mammals? Mice, squirrels, skunks? Are there occasional coyotes in your neighborhood? These are all members of your urban ecosystem.

Or you might want to use your imagination and consider an ecosystem somewhere else in the world.

LIST: Make a list of these plant and animals. Next to each, note where they live. Where do the plants grow? Where do the insects and animals live? After that, next to each animal type, write down what they eat. 

IDENTIFY: Group each plant and animal into their trophic level, using the illustration above to guide you.

FIELD ASSIGNMENT

OBSERVE: Grab a pencil and pad of paper and go outdoors, whether in your backyard, your schoolyard, your favorite park, or in the woods near your house. Look around and notice the variety of plants, insects, birds, and mammals. In some cases, you may not see certain animals, but you know that they’re there, hiding. Perhaps there are deer that you only see at dusk and dawn, or wild turkeys nesting in the woods, or raccoons, or other animals who do their best work at night, like skunks, opossums, or coyotes.

Who are the producers and consumers in your area? The part of the world that you live in will determine the kinds of plants, insects, and animals that you will see. These are members of your ecosystem.

LIST: Make a list of the plants and animals you observe. Next to each, note where they live. Where do the plants grow? Where do the insects and animal live? After that, next to each insect or animal, write down what you think they eat.

IDENTIFY: Group each plant and animal into their trophic level, using the illustration above to guide you.



NOW, BUILD YOUR TROPHIC LEVEL FOOD CHAIN

Whether you used the Lab or the Field Assignment method, use the information that you gathered to build your food chain. 
Here’s how: From all the animals you imagined in your Lab Assignment or saw in your Field Assignment, create a food chain like the one illustrated below.
  1. GET CREATIVE!  ​
    1. DRAW: Draw a picture of each plant, insect, bird, and mammal that you’d like to include in your trophic level food chain OR 
    2. PHOTOGRAPH: If you don’t like to draw, take pictures of the animals that you see with your phone and use them in your illustration.
  2. ARRANGE: Arrange the organisms (plants, insects, birds, mammals) in the order of their placement in the food chain. 
    1. Draw them onto your poster board OR
    2. ​Print them and glue them to poster board OR 
    3. Make a digital representation of your food chain using your photo images (.jpgs). Use a PowerPoint to create your food chain. Or use a free graphics creating app like canva.com.
  3. IDENTIFY: Write in the names of the plants, insect, bird, and mammal species that you selected.
  4. CONNECT: Draw arrows to indicate what plant, insect, or animal provides energy for the next link in the food chain. When building a food chain, the energy flows upward from the lowest levels of the chain to the highest.
foodchaingraphic_orig


SHARE

Now that you have this really cool information and illustration, what are you going to do with it?

Share it with your class. Tell them about the plants and animals that you saw or imagined and why you selected them to be represented in your food chain.

Describe where they live, what they eat, and how they provide energy to the consumers in the next level of the food chain.

When it’s your classmates’ turn to share, ask them about the plants and animals that they selected and how the plants and animals provide energy to each other.

Consider what happens if one part of the food chain is missing. What do you think would happen? Make this part of your report and part of the conversation.

Tell your friends and family what you’ve learned.

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WRITE A POEM, HAIKU, RAP, OR SONG ABOUT THE FOOD CHAIN

We found this fun poem about the food chain. It inspired us to wonder how you might write a poem about the food chain. And what if you put it to music?

LINKS IN A FOOD CHAIN
~Author Unknown

There once was a flower that grew on the plain.
Where the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—Links in a food chain.

There once was a bug who nibbled on flowers,
Nibbled on flowers for hours and hours!
The bug ate the flower that grew on the plain,
Where the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—Links in a food chain.

There once was a bird who gobbled up bugs,
And creepies and crawlies, and slimies and slugs.
The bird ate the bug, who nibbled on flowers,
Nibbled on flowers for hours and hours!
The bug ate the flower that grew on the plain,
Where the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—Links in a food chain.

There once was a snake who often grabbed birds,
And swallowed them whole, or so I have heard.
The snake ate the bird, who gobbled up bugs,
And creepies and crawlies, and slimies and slugs.
The bird ate the bug, who nibbled on flowers,
Nibbled on flowers for hours and hours!
The bug ate the flower that grew on the plain,
Where the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—Links in a food chain.

There once was a fox, and I’ll make a bet:
He’d eat anything he could possibly get.
The fox ate the snake, who often grabbed birds,
and swallowed the whole, or so I have heard.
The snake ate the bird, who gobbled up bugs,
And creepies and crawlies, and slimies and slugs.
The bird ate the bug, who nibbled on flowers,
Nibbled on flowers for hours and hours!
The bug ate the flower that grew on the plain,
Where the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—Links in a food chain.

The fox, he grew older and died one spring day,
But he made the soil rich, when he rotted away.
A new flower grew where he died on the plain.
And the sun helped it grow, and so did the rain
—LINKS IN A FOOD CHAIN.

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guitar-istock-700672832-resize_orig


SHARE

Share your poem or song with your class, friends, and family members. Tell them about what inspired your poem or song and what you’ve learned about the food chain and nature’s processes to sustain itself. Let them know why this is important.

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Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2021. You may freely use, copy and share these Learning Activities for educational purposes. 
​For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected]