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An Easy Food Web Lesson

Posted by Mr. Oettinger on October 15th, 2008

An Easy Food Web Lesson

Looking for a way to get your students out of their seats and up to the board for an interactive lesson?  Looking for a way to get students to rally around a lesson like fans at a sporting event?

Here’s a quick and easy way to introduce food webs to your class. 

  • You might first introduce this lesson in a constructivist manner with some socratic discussion.  Perhaps a question like “Where do organisms get their energy from; and where does the energy go?”
  • Print out and distribute enough of the aquatic food web cards so that each student gets one or two cards.  Announce to the class “I AM THE SUN” and draw a sun on the board.
  • Ask the students to look at their cards and to raise a hand if they have an organism that can use your sun energy.  Any student who volunteers a consumer at this point serves as a springboard to develop the discussion about who can use energy from the sun.
  • Have students with producer cards tape the cards to the board, or simply write the names of their organisms on the board and use arrows to show the movement of energy from the sun to the producer.
  • Continue with the next organisms that can consume the producers, working your way through the trophic levels.
  • Challenge students to draw the arrow to represent the movement of energy between organisms.  Inevitably, a student will draw the arrow in the wrong direction.  Other students will often notice and suggest the correction.  Otherwise, you may call attention to the issue and ask students to scrutinize the arrow for accuracy.  When this error does occur, make sure all of your students are paying attention when the correction is made.  The direction the arrows face is a huge aspect of this activity.  It can be difficult for some students to “get” the right direction for the arrow.  Spend the time it takes to make sure all students understand what the arrows represent.
  • Finally, ask students what the arrows represent, and ask what the diagram you just created is called.  Depending on the student responses, this may give you an opportunity to point out the difference between food chains and food webs.

Students tend to love this activity and it allows one to approach the topic from a constructivist perspective in which students work together to construct basic knowledge of this essential foundation to energy transfer and nutrient cycling.

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