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Compiled By: kristen_teach

Ideas for ecosystems and food chains

Teaching Ecosystems
Posted by: Ms. J

I taught ecosystems to my third graders last year, and they really enjoyed it. Before we started the unit, we talked about living things. To introduce the unit, I read them I SEE A KOOKABURRA! This book focuses on the different animals found in different parts of the world. It's a really cool book for this topic!

Then we fill out a chart together which focuses on the different ecosystems and the different organisms found them. Throughout this process, books on different ecosystems are available which I checked out from the library. We partner read some of these while I read others to the entire class. A good author to check out is Jean Craighead George.

As a culminating activity, students choose what ecosystem they would like to learn more about. I put them into groups, and they do mini-research on that ecosystem as a small group. They record their findings and create a mural to share with the class.

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Posted by: JohnV

A favorite of mine is to have the kids stake out a square meter of ground somewhere on campus using bamboo skewers and kite string. Then they observe and catalog all of the living and non-living things in their ecosystem and watch how they interact with each other and are interdependent on each other.

You can lead up to this activity with lessons on living vs non-living and other ecosystem concepts such as interdependence, niches, and adaptations.

As the last part of the observation of the square meter, have the kids take a soil sample and put it into a homemade berlese funnel. You can find information about berlese funnels by serching for that term online. They can be made from a 2-liter soda bottle and a piece of wire mesh from your local hardware store.

Good luck,

Posted by: Julianne

How old are your kids? I've used an idea for k/1 that is fun. We cut out photos or drawings (mine, really bad) of items in a food chain - grass, insects, birds, bears - for instance. Then each item is glued to a large paper strip. We then make an actual "chain" out of the strips by looping them together in a paper chain.

Food Chains and Food Webs
Posted by: Jaime

I do food chains and food webs with my children (when we study our salt marsh). The children wear a card with a picture and a name of an animal/fish/.. on it. Each card has the number of strings attached to the bottom of it as children who are animals that they eat. (An animal high on the food chain might have three strings attached and the animal at the bottom of the food chain would not have any strings attached). They can use the strings to connect together making a straight food chain, and more complex food webs.

I have posters with an example of a food chain and a food web to show them during the introduction.


food chain
Posted by: Tracy

This is probably a little corny but I always give my students strips of paper and have them write the name of an animal and draw the animal. Then they make a chain with the paper in the order that the animals may be eaten. For example: draw grass, bug, snake, hawk then hook them together.

We also play a predator/prey game. I get lots of little plastic bugs and divide the class in half. One half are the predators and the other half are the prey. I put all the bugs and the predators at one end of the gym and the prey and the other end. The "prey" have to try to run to the other end of the gym, get a bug and run back. If they are caught by a "predator" they are out. I also put about 5 hula hoops around the gym as safety zones. They can stand in a hoop to act as if they have reached a safe hiding place.

Hope some of this helps!

Magic Schoo Bus video on food chains
Posted by: Alicia

There is a great video on food chains and the kids in the video even take a trip to the seashore. In the video, two students compare pond scum to a tuna fish sandwich. They make a food chain connection right on the show and it leads well into students finding connections all around them.

Animals Unit
Posted by: Julianne

It is helpful to start putting together an animal photo file. I started mine many (many, many) years ago. Just cut out interesting or cute or unusual photos of animals from magazines and newspapers. Mount them on oaktag or construction paper and laminate them if you have access to a laminator. I've used my file over and over in grades k through 6. In the younger grades we talk about what the animals eat, where they live, how they survive winter, how they care for their babies. In the older grades we compare and contrast animals to form groups that become the basis for the scientific classification of the animal kingdom.

A couple of other things to try with your little ones:

Put out a large piece of paper (bulletin board paper or chart paper works). Have students color an environment on the paper. You can have them work in groups, each group creating a different environment - a rainforest, desert, alpine forest, etc. Then, have students research what kinds of wildlife would live in their environment. Have them draw pictures of different kinds of animals, cut them out and glue them where they belong in the picture - birds in the trees, fish in the water, etc.

Have students create a "food chain" by drawing a preditor animal, that animal's food source, and so on until they reach the lowest organism on that particular food chain. Glue each drawing to a strip of oaktag, then form a paper chain by stapling the oaktag strips into circles in the correct order. - a FOOD CHAIN!

Posted by: Sarah

Some topics you can cover: What is a habitat? What is an ecosystem? (We did a "earthworm observation" and also studied our class pets - fish and hermit crabs). Food chains, Predator/Prey Relationships, Design features of animals (like camouflage). We played Survival, a carnivore/herbivore role play game that they loved. There are lots of "role play" type games you can use to make your lessons kinesthetic. Good luck, this is a fun topic!

Posted by: Tabitha

I teach a whole unit on ecology. My students use 2 liter soda bottles and make ecocolumnes. They plant mustard seed, alfalpha, and grass seed. They make an aquarium at the other end with duckweed, elodea, and algae as the producers. Then we add the consumers. In the terrariums we add crickets and rollie pollie bugs called Isopods. In the aquarium we add snails and mosquito fish or guppies. We then do experiments on how pollution effects thess ecosystems. I also use The Great Kapoke Tree as an introduction to the unit and we make rain forest pillows. We write a haiku or Cinquin with an illustration on the pillow and hang them outside in the hall. I also use other information books and we discuss biomes and the food chain. I have them research the 8 different biomes and make murals and type up a report on one and a diorama to go with it. I have them make a giant food chain together as a class and I also show The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten. We go on a field trip to a Nature Barn and get to experience three ecosystems in our neighborhood. I also take my kids to a near by creek to have them experience another ecosystem near by. If you need any more ideas please feel free to email me. I am now in the process of teaching this unit.