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Food Webs

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.

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In this activity, students will construct possible food webs for different ecosystems as they learn about the roles of different kinds of living organisms. Overall, students will discover that food webs can become complex, as they depict all of the different foods eaten by each animal within an ecosystem.

Give each group of students a different set of Ecosystem Cards. Each set consists of six cards depicting producers and consumers typically found within a given environment. Have students read the information on their cards and identify which organisms are the producers in their groups’ ecosystems. Next, have each group identify which cards represent the consumers (herbivores, carnivores and scavenger/decomposers) in their respective ecosystems. 

Once students have identified the producers and consumers, have the groups discuss “who might eat whom” among the organisms depicted on their cards. For example, in the Freshwater Pond, the bluegill fish (carnivore) might eat dragonfly nymphs and snails. The snail (decomposer/scavenger) might eat the green algae and the waste or dead body parts from all other organisms in the system. Have students consider possible food sources for each organism in their ecosystems. 

Give each group a sheet of drawing paper. Instruct students to write the names of the organisms in their ecosystems around the edges of the sheet, using the following colors: producers in green; herbivores in yellow; carnivores in blue; and decomposer/scavengers in red. Then have students draw lines to connect each consumer to all of its food sources. They will find that there are many ways to connect even as few as six organisms within an ecosystem.

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932