Weaving the Web

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Science Lesson Plan
Weaving the Web
Grade Level: 2-5
Background
Living Things Need Energy From Food
Energy can be defined as the capacity for change. Living things need energy for
everything they do. For example, a butterfly needs energy to change position
when it flies, and a daffodil needs energy to change size as it grows and blooms.
All living things get energy from food. Green plants use energy from the sun to
make their food. Plants use the food they make for energy to grow. Animals get
energy by eating plants or other animals.
The Sun is the Source
The energy in living things originates from the sun. Green plants are the only
living organisms that can use the energy from the sun make food.
Weaving the Web-Grades 2-5: T-2
Although many children know that the sun keeps plants healthy, they may not
know that plants rely on the sun’s energy to make food, or that this food can be
used by the plant itself or by animals that eat the plant. For example, a sugar
maple tree uses the sun’s energy to make sugar, a food, in its leaves. The tree
uses the sugar for energy to grow and stay alive. If people eat maple syrup, they
get energy from the sugar in the tree. But people cannot hold out their hands to
the sun and make food in the same way that a maple tree can make food in its
leaves.
Children may think that the sun is important because it keeps animals warm. The
sun does provide warmth to the animals, but, more importantly, the sun provides
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Science Lesson Plan
the energy that green plants use to produce food. Animals get this energy when
they eat the plants. To help students understand that animals depend on the sun
for food energy, have them think about how long a deer could live if it only
basked in the sun and did not eat green plants. The relationship between the
sun’s energy and the energy required by living things will become clearer as the
children learn about food chains and webs.
Children may cling to the idea that plants draw in usable food from the soil
through their roots. It is true that plants absorb water and essential minerals from
the soil and that they need water to make food. Food contains energy, however,
and the water and minerals in the soil do not contain energy. So plants use the
energy from the sunlight plus water and minerals along with carbon dioxide from
the air to produce food that contains energy.
Food Chains
A food chains’ energy is transferred in sequence. For example, energy comes
from the sun, to green plants, to animals that eat plants, and to animals that eat
other animals. Green plants use the sun’s energy directly to make food. When
animals eat green plants and other animals eat those animals, the energy moves
from one living thing to another along the food chain. Animals that eat plants are
called herbivores, animals that eat both plants and animals are called omnivores,
and animals that eat only other animals are called carnivores. Ultimately, all
members of a food chain depend on the energy from the sun that green plants
transform into food energy.
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Science Lesson Plan
OBJECTIVES
Following this activity, students will be able to:
 Construct a food chain and
explain how energy flows
through the chain
 Understand and explain how all
living things depend directly or
indirectly on green plants for
food
 Understand and explain why the
sun is at the center of the food
web.
 Use pictures and arrows to create
a food web that includes the sun,
green plants, herbivores,
carnivores, and omnivores
 Be able to explain which types of
food the carnivores, herbivores,
and omnivores in the food chains
eat


MATERIALS


Ball of yarn
Tape (strong enough to attach
pictures to clothing)
Enough space for the class to
form a large circle
Activity Sheets 1-8 (pictures of
rainforest plants and animals)
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Science Lesson Plan
PROCEDURES
1) Copy Activity Sheets 1-8 and cut apart.
Have students tape one picture each to
their chests.
2) Tell the students that they will be
making a food web. Have them stand in
a circle and introduce themselves as the
plant or animal they represent. The
student with the sun picture should
stand in the center. Students should
begin to ask themselves, “Am I an
herbivore, an omnivore, a carnivore, or
a plant? Who in the circle can I eat that
gives me energy? Who in the circle can I
give energy to?”
3) Explain that the ball of yarn represents
sunbeams, or energy from the sun.
Ask the student representing the sun to hold
the end of the yarn tightly and
toss the ball to someone who can use that
energy (a green plant). When a
student representing the green plant
catches the ball of yarn, he or she should
hold a piece of the yarn and throw the ball
to someone else who could use the
energy. For example, the sun might throw
the yarn to the leaves, the leaves to the
butterfly, and the butterfly to the toucan.
After the yarn reaches a carnivore, break it
off to represent one food chain.
4) Explain how some animals, like monkeys
and tree frogs, are omnivores: they can
end a food chain, or be eaten by a
carnivore.
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Science Lesson Plan
After the first food chain is completed, it should look something like this:
5) Ask the children how the plants and
animals who were not included in this
particular food chain can get the energy
they need. (Through other food chains)
(PROCEDURES;
CONTINUED)
6) Return the yarn to the sun to start another
chain. This time the sun might throw its energy to
the berries, the berries to the tapir, and the tapir
to the jaguar. Again, break the yarn, throw it back
to the sun, and have the sun start another chain.
Continue making chains until every student holds
at least one strand of yarn.
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Science Lesson Plan
Eventually, the completed food web will look something like this:
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Science Lesson Plan
PROCEDURES;
CONTINUED
7) Ask the children: Have we made food
chains? (Yes, lots of them!)
What do all of our food chains together look like?
(A food web.)
What is the difference between a food chain and
food web? (A food web is made up of several
food chains. A web is more complicated than a
chain because it has connections among the
chains.)
*Ask the children to give examples of a few
individual chains in the food web.
Who is holding the most pieces of yarn? (The
sun.)
Why? (Because each food chain starts with the
sun.)
Who else is part of many food chains? (Green
plants)
8) Emphasize how each part of the food
web is essential to another part’s
survival. Ask the children questions
like:
How could we show what could
happen if one kind of plant, such as
all the berries died? (The student
representing berries could pull out
his or her pieces of yarn and sit
down.)
If all the berries are gone, who may
have trouble getting enough food?
(Identify all the animals that were in
food chains that included berries.
Whoever had yarn pulled out of their
hands might have trouble getting
enough food without the berries.)
What happened to our food web? (It
is much thinner, less complex, and
less strong.)
Why should we be concerned about
each kind of plant or animal?
(Because other plants and animals in
the food web may depend on it.)
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Science Lesson Plan
9) Finally, emphasize how all parts of
the food chain are equally important
and congratulate each one:
Will the carnivores show their teeth?
Will the omnivores please shake a
leg?
Will the herbivores please wink an
eye?
Will the only living things that can
make food using the sun’s energy –
green plants – please take a bow?
10) Collect the “Who Eats Who” sheets
to save for another activity.
Extensions
1. Have students identify food chains from other ecosystems (forest, wetland,
marine, etc.) and make pictures of the plants and animals from that
ecosystem, using arrows to indicate the flow of energy.
2. Students can learn about the plant or animal they represented in the food web
activity and write a report, tell a story, or make an illustration about the plant
or animal to share with the class.
Adapted from Project LEAP: Learning about Ecology, Animals, and Plants, College of
Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
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