Food chains describe the flow of energy through an ecosystem. This short activity can serve as a good introduction to food chains or as a warm-up on the day after initial instruction occurs. I had planned this game last year but only named it when my students arrived and asked what we would be doing in class. “Hunger Games”, seemed the appropriate reply.
In this activity, students work together to put a food chain in order. Each student is labeled as one of the organisms that is part of the food chain.
producer: an organisms that makes its own food
consumer: an organism that eats other organisms
decomposer: an organism that breaks down and uses nutrients from dead matter
food chain: the path of energy through a community, usually beginning with a producer
food web: shows the feeding relationships within a community, a group of food chains linked together.
High school students:
detritivore: a consumer that feeds on dead plants and animals
primary consumer: eats producers
second level (secondary) consumer: eats primary consumer
third level(tertiary) consumer: eats second level consumer
heterotroph – consumers: consume other organisms
autotroph – producers: make their own food
Braillewriter or ability to emboss braille
Prepare braille and 36pt bold labels of the organisms in a food chain. The ones shown are as follows but this could be adapted for a smaller class by using a shorter food chain or for a more advanced class by using an aquatic food chain or a different terrestrial food chain. The instructor may also play if necessary.
Labels shown include:
Tell students that they will be playing the “Hunger Games” today. Describe the game as a “Who eats who?”
The students will stand to play this game.
Tell the students that each of them will receive a braille/print label on his/her back of one organisms in a food chain.
Similar to the Vocabulary Review Game, students are not allowed to read their own backs but only the backs of the other students.
The students will work together to place the members of the food chain in order and stand arm in arm in this order.
Remind students of the position of the Sun as provider of energy for the producer in a food chain.
A more complex food chain
An aquatic food chain
Add a decomposer to the food chain. Students will have to process that the decomposer can act at all levels.
High school students could be prompted to describe the level for each consumer.
5th Grade – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems
PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
The energy released [from] food was once energy from the sun that was captured by plants in the chemical process that forms plant matter (from air and water). (5-PS3-1)
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem. (5-LS2-1)
Middle School – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems
LS2.B: Cycle of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
Food webs are models that demonstrate how matter and energy is transferred between producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem. Transfers of matter into and out of the physical environment occur at every level. Decomposers recycle nutrients from dead plant or animal matter back to the soil in terrestrial environments or to the water in aquatic environments. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. (MS-LS2-3)