Picture this… you’ve just finished a fantastic flow of energy in a food web activity. Your students have taken notes, watched interesting videos, studied diagrams, and had some time to discuss their learning with their table partners. You know that the content has been poured into them. But how do you know that what you’ve taught has stuck? Could your students actually describe energy flow in food webs? Do they know the role that the sun, producers, consumers, and decomposers play in a particular food web?
Welp… no need to worry. Here’s a simple activity to see exactly where your students are in their learning.
Flow of Energy in a Food Web Activity
- Two playground balls
- Organisms cards (find the free printable at the end of this post)
- Chalk of various colors
One fun thing about this energy in a food web activity is that it should be done outdoors. Pick a day with a beautiful forecast, and head outside! Sometimes just being in the fresh air is what you need for the kids to feel curious and in a good headspace to do some thinking. And who doesn’t love to shake things up a little, am I right?
First, divide your class into two groups -each group will be working with a food web from a different ecosystem. For this activity, it will be the desert and forest. Pass out the organism cards (get them for free at the bottom of this post) and have each group sit in a large circle. The order students sit in the circle does not matter for this activity. Be sure the students leave some room between them. Assign one person from each group to be the “flow of energy” – this person gets to hold the chalk.
Do a quick review of unit vocabulary by saying statements such as: Stand if your organism is a producer… a consumer… a decomposer. As each group stands, you may want to ask the students to give a brief description of what each word means. This will help students who are unsure of these terms to get a little refresher before actually beginning the task. If there are any misconceptions or questions about how energy flows in food webs, this is the time to get those answered so everyone is clear before starting the activity.
Step-by-Step directions for Interactive Energy in a Food Web Activity
- Begin the activity by asking your students: What is the source of all energy flow in food webs? (the sun). First, the person in each group that is wearing the sun card on it will begin with the ball. They will roll it to a producer of their choice. Then students take turns rolling the ball from one organism to another. This shows how energy flows in food chains within that particular food web. After each roll of the ball, the student designated as the “flow of energy” will draw an arrow with chalk from the organism giving their energy to the one getting it.
- As they’re mimicking the flow of energy in each food web, ask the following: What do the arrows represent? (the direction of the flow of energy in food chains/webs). Students often get the direction of the arrows confused. Be sure to check that the groups are drawing the arrows correctly.
- When the groups get to the end of one food chain within their food web, ask the students: How are the food chains and the food webs related? (A food web is made up of multiple, overlapping food chains. They are located in the same ecosystem and many organisms compete for the same source of energy).
- And then students can trade places (and organisms) within the circle and repeat the process. This time around, be sure to use a different color chalk to create another food chain within that food web. And don’t forget to also change the student representing the “flow of energy”. After all, what fifth grader wouldn’t want to be the student with the chalk, right?! If time allows, the two groups can switch cards and practice examining the flow of energy in a new food web.
Wrapping it up
- When you feel your class has had sufficient time to explore the different flows of energy in food webs within their ecosystem food web, have them lie their organism cards on the ground where they were sitting. Have them stand back to observe their finished webs.
- Have the students pair up and tell their partners what they notice about the food webs they created. Does anything stand out to them? How many different food chains are in each of the food webs?
- If time allows, you can extend your students’ thinking by asking some challenging questions. This can show you how deeply they are grasping this concept.
Energy Flow in a Food Web Activity Challenge Questions
- What factors would negatively impact the way energy moves in a food web? (natural disasters, overpopulation, hunting, pesticides, construction, etc.)
- What would happen if (insert organism name here) were removed from the food web? (Organisms directly connected to it could overpopulate because the thing that eats them is gone or they would die/be forced to move because their food source was not there anymore.)
- What are two consumers who compete for the same resource? (Answers may vary.) How do you know? (They both eat the same resource.)
- Name an organism that gets its energy directly from the grass. (Any herbivore.) Name an organism that gets its energy indirectly from the grass. (Any carnivore.)
Once this activity is complete, you can feel confident knowing you found a meaningful experience to solidify your students’ understanding of the flow of energy in food webs. They are leaving your classroom with a deeper and more complete grasp than when they walked through your door this morning… and isn’t that what teaching is all about?
More Energy Flow in a Food Web Activities
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