One of the most important parts of a balanced ecosystem is the native food chain. This simple activity from our Rivers, Lakes + Ponds Unit will demonstrate to your child the role of producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers. (Not sure what all of those are? Don’t worry, we’ll explain below!)
What you need:
- food web illustrations printable
- 13 small paper cups
- glue or tape
What to do:
Print out our illustrations download and cut out each organism.
Using glue or tape, attach one picture to each paper cup.
Introduce your child to each animal, naming them when you show them the photo. There is algae, a cattail, a worm, a mouse, a fish, a frog, a turtle, a dragonfly, a snake, a duck, a bird, an otter, and a fox.
Next, demonstrate how a typical food chain would function in a pond or river setting, starting with your producer. Plants are producers because they produce energy for the ecosystem. They get their energy from the sun through photosynthesis.
Next, introduce a primary consumer. Primary consumers are animals that eat plants, or herbivores. Place this cup over the producer cup.
Then, add a secondary consumer. Secondary consumers are animals that eat other animals, or carnivores. Stack this cup over the primary consumer cup.
This may be enough information for your child to repeat the activity. If they are looking for more, you can introduce tertiary consumers, or animals that eat carnivores. (The top of the food chain ends with apex predators—nothing eats them in nature!—but we don’t have any apex predators in our activity.)
You could also end each food web stack with a decomposer (our worm!), or an animal that eats decaying matter and puts nutrients back into the soil for plants.
Repeat the activity, starting with a producer, as many times as your child would like to or as long as they remain engaged. Demonstrate how varied the web can be and how all the animals play an important role.
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