Saturday, November 19, 2011

Science: Understanding Food Chains

I love teaching science. Last year, I had the chance to pick it up again after a few years away from it. I had forgotten how much I enjoy talking with kids about their science understandings and planning lessons to help them grow.

For the past week, we've been looking at food chains. My students don't have much prior knowledge about food chains and food webs, so I pretty much started from scratch. I created this Powerpoint to introduce the basics.

Another wonderful tool for teaching about food chains is the book Who Eats What? Food Chains and Food Webs by Patricia Lauber. Patricia Lauber is so skilled at explaining difficult concepts in a clear, easy-to-understand way. I used a document camera to project the book for my class. They loved seeing the underwater food chain and thinking about how it related to our lunch that day (fish sticks!)

While I was in college, I worked as a camp counselor and naturalist. It was as a naturalist that I first discovered one of my favorite games for teaching about food chains--Into the Forest: A Food Chain Game. Since then, I have used the game multiple times in both formal and informal situations. It never fails! The kids love the beautiful illustrations. They marvel at the lists of what creatures eat others. "I never knew that skunks eat insects" or "What is a shrew, anyway?" The game works just fine with a whole class, with each kid having 2-3 cards. At first, everyone works to get the high order predators. Who doesn't want to be top of the food chain? But then I add the wrinkle of the energy points at the top of each card. While the owls and the bobcats are really awesome, they only have 1 energy point--while the less exciting plants have 10. The game changes for everyone, and we play another round before we talk about what we have learned. It becomes a favorite for indoor recess.

No discussion of the food chain is complete without a discussion of decomposers. Last year, I had trouble getting together some simple and quick materials to teach about decomposers. I wrote a short article and created an anticipation guide for it. This year, the article and anticipation guide went wonderfully. Kids were surprised to find out that they have indeed seen decomposers--and that decomposers may not be so disgusting after all!

Link to decomposers article and activities (free)

And then I finally got around to setting up an account on PBS Learning Media. This was the find of the week! Short videos on various topics are easy to find and favorite, with none of the horrible ads of those other video sites. With one search, I found a 3-minute video on the food chain to reinforce everything that I wanted students to know. Magical!

I'm actually sorry that our study of the food chain is coming to an end. But I'm excited, too, because our next unit is adaptations--and that is even more fun.

Do you have any great science resources to share?

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog:) I'm a new follower! We are starting food chains and food webs, excited to dig into your info:)

    4th Grade Frolics