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Ecosystems and Food Chains

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Animal Series

Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Lab & Rainforest

Recommended Books:

  • EcoMazes: Twelve Earth Adventures by Roxie Munro
  • I Took A Walk by Henry Cole
  • Where Once There Was A Wood by Denise Fleming
  • Deep In The Swamp by Donna M. Bateman
  • Pond Walk by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
  • Over In…series by Marianne Berkes
  • Pond Circle by Betsy Franco
  • The Story Goes On by Aileen Fisher
  • Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

An ecosystem is a community of living organisms and nonliving components sharing the environment. Here’s an equation to help kids remember: living organism + nonliving component = ecosystem.

  • Living organisms: plants, animals, humans and microbes (microscopic organism or single cell)
  • Nonliving components: air, water and mineral soil

There are two main types of ecosystems in our world: water-based and land-based. Water-based ecosystems are categorized by salt water (marine) or freshwater characteristics. Marine ecosystems include: oceans, salt marsh, estuaries, lagoons, mangroves, coral reefs, deep sea. Freshwater ecosystems include: lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, springs and wetlands. Land-based ecosystems include: forests, tropical rainforests, grasslands and savannas, mountains and tundras, caves, deserts, and urban (cities and towns).

Lesson Ideas:

Ecosystems: Science based approach

Classification ~ Offer a brief overview of the water-based and land-based ecosystems to develop accurate classification by type.

Where Does It Belong? ~ Using pictures or cutouts of various animal/fish/bird/insect/reptile, etc. and ecosystems, have the child identify which belongs in the appropriate ecosystem.

Overlapping Ecosystems ~ Use this Overlapping Ecosystems diagram to show in basic terms how ecosystems overlap, which widens the wildlife (plants and animals) within them. You can also use a Venn diagram to discuss in more detail the aspects within the overlapping area, referred to as ecotone.

Ecosystems: Geography based approach

Map It ~ Find a region/continent on the map then discuss the different ecosystems found there:

  • North America: Caves, Coastal, Desert, Grasslands, Mountains and Tundras, Plains, Wetlands, Woodlands
  • South America: Caves, Coastal, Mountains, Tropical Rainforests, Woodlands
  • Africa: Caves, Coastal, Desert, Forest, Grasslands & Savannas, Mountains, Tropical land
  • Asia: Caves, Coastal, Desert, Mountain, Tropical land, Woodland
  • Australia: Caves, Coastal, Coral Reefs, Plains, Tropical land
  • Europe: Caves, Coastal, Mountain, Polar, Woodlands
  • Polar Regions: Icebergs, Ice Caves, Ocean

Closer Look ~ Many regions of the world are known for specific ecosystems: Africa’s grasslands; Australia’s coral reefs; South America’s tropical rainforest, America’s coastal areas and southwest desert, etc. Highlight a specific ecosystem and discuss the wildlife associated with it.

Food Chains:

Food chains (also referred to as food web) are a sequence of events showing who eats what or who in the survival based cycle of life. Each step in the process is considered a link within the chain. Discuss basic examples of food chains such as:

  • fox eats a rabbit who eats grass
  • owl eats a mouse who eats grass
  • hawk eats a cardinal who eats seeds and grass
  • snake eats a toad who eats a grasshopper who eat grass
  • person eats beef from a cow who eats grass
  • bear or person eats salmon who eats a variety of ocean organisms
  • polar bear eats a seal who eats fish who eats shrimp who eats algae
  • coyote eats a rabbit who eats a squirrel who eats plants, fruits, seeds, nuts and insects
  • owl eats a bird who eats a worm who eats organic material (dead grass or leaves) or bacteria from dirt

The first producer is the starting point of a food chain (usually the green plant). You can expand the lesson by introducing the process of photosynthesis.

Related Worksheets:


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This entry was posted on April 17, 2013 by in Nature, Science and tagged , , , , .
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