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The Food Chain Game – a lesson in ecosystems By Julie Taylor, Education Intern Goal: For students to have an understanding of how a food chain functions within an ecosystem and be able to describe each organisms role as part of an interconnected system. The “Food Chain” game is created by dividing the players into various categories – herbivores (primary consumers), omnivores (secondary consumers), and carnivores (tertiary consumers). Each category is given a certain number of lives: 9 lives for
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   1 The Food Chain Game – a lesson in ecosystems  By Julie Taylor, Education Intern Goal: For students to have an understanding of how a food chain functionswithin an ecosystem and be able to describe each organisms role as part of an interconnected system. Overview: The “Food Chain” game is created by dividing the players into variouscategories – herbivores (primary consumers), omnivores (secondaryconsumers), and carnivores (tertiary consumers). Each category is given acertain number of lives: 9 lives for herbivores, 6 lives of omnivores, and 3lives for carnivores. Once in your ecosystem (the playfield or gym), thecarnivores chase and eat a life from either an omnivore or a herbivore, theomnivores can eat a herbivore but must also find food, and a herbivore is just constantly running for its life and having to find food for survival.Each player runs around until his/her lives are exhausted. There are nowinners or losers, just survivors. Grade Level: 3 – 6 Group size: whole class activity Subjects: Biology, Communication, Ecology, Physical Education Time: 60 – 90 minutes (over 2 days) Materials:    The entire class    A large playfield or gym    Headbands or waistbands to denote the player’s role (green, white, red, black and blue)    Tags to denote each player’s number of lives made out of construction paper matching their role’s coloring    One “survival” card for each player (a stiff piece of cardboard works well)    Ink pads and stamps for “survival needs” – vegetation, water, and shelter – enough to make 3 “survival stations” each with 3-4 stamps per need    2 bean bags    Yarn or string for tags Vocabulary:  food chain, trophic level, producer, consumer, primary consumer,herbivore, secondary consumer, omnivore, tertiary consumer, carnivore, photosynthesis, energy 4649 Sunnyside Avenue N., Suite 325 Seattle, WA 98103 USA(206) 632-2421 www.snowleopard.org     2(Before playing the game, the students must have an understanding of a basic food chainand its associated trophic levels.)1.   Ask the students “what sustains life?”  Energy is what sustains life and it is the flow of this energy through an ecosystemthat will be studied in the game. Within an ecosystem, there are basically twotypes of organisms –   producers (the organisms that produce energy) and consumers (the organisms that consume energy).2.   Ask the students “what are sources of energy?” Here on earth, the main sources of energy are the sun, plants, and animals.Plants get their energy from the sun through a process called  photosynthesis. The herbivores get their energy from the energy stored in the plants. Omnivores get their energy from the energy stored in both the plants and the animals that they eat and carnivores get their energy from the energy stored in the animals that they eat. Thistransfer of energy from one organism to another is known as an  Ecological or Trophic Level Pyramid  . Plants form the base of the pyramid (  producers) . Above the plants arethe herbivores (  primary consumers) , the omnivores (  secondary consumers) , and at thetop of the pyramid are the carnivores ( tertiary consumers). As you move up the pyramid,a large amount of energy is lost to the environment. This loss of energy is due to the factthat when energy changes forms some of it is lost in the process, because animals use theenergy for keeping warm and moving. The most energy efficient organisms are thosethat get their energy directly from the sun (plants) and the least energy efficient are thecarnivores who get their energy filtered through the plants and herbivores.   Pyramid courtesy of Arcytech.com   3The day before playing the game have the students create their own food chain based onwhat you have discussed in class. Encourage your students to be creative – they candraw pictures or find ones in magazines or on the Internet. Have them be able todemonstrate that they understand that an ecosystem needs many producers and primaryconsumers to allow for the survival of just one carnivore. They food chain could look something like this:   4 Now for the game!!! How to play the game: The game should last about 15-30 minutes. Each player is assigned a role in theecosystem. There are three animal categories: herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore. Eachcategory is given a certain number of lives: 9 lives for an herbivore, 6 lives for anomnivore, and 3 lives for a carnivore. Tags are the same color as the player’s role andare worn on a piece of yarn. To make the ecosystem more complete, a human, diseaseand natural disaster are included. To distinguish between each member of the food chain, players will be given a specific colored headband or waistband. The herbivores will wear green, the omnivores white, the carnivores red, disease and natural disaster are blue, andthe human is black. For a class of 30 Players, there would be:1 Human 1 Disease1 Natural Disaster 2 Carnivores4 Omnivores 21 HerbivoresHidden in the field or gym are three types of stations: vegetation (food), shelter, andwater. All the animals need to find the shelter and water stations to survive. But theherbivores and the omnivores also need to find vegetation. These stations consist of anink pad and 3-4 stamps which the animals use to stamp their survival card.To begin the game every animal player is given a headband, “lives” tags, and a survivalcard. The players that represent disease and natural disaster only get a bean bag. The player that represents the human gets “lives” tags that they can use to replenish another  player’s life. The herbivores are let to roam first, then the omnivores, followed by thecarnivores, and finally disease, natural disaster, and the human.Herbivores must always be looking for vegetation, water, and shelter and stamp their survival cards to show that they received them. Omnivores can get “life” tags only fromherbivores while they still need to search for vegetation, water, and shelter for their cards.Carnivores can get “life” tags from either herbivores or omnivores but must also havestamps on their survival card for water and shelter. Disease can victimize any of theanimals by throwing the bean bag at them. If it hits them, this takes 1 life tag. Naturaldisaster can also victimize any of the animals by throwing the bean bag at them. If it hitsthem, this takes 2 life tags. The human just has to tag any player in the game (includingdisease and natural disaster) and can do anything they want. For example, the humancould terminate the player’s existence (taking all of their lives or eradicating disease) or replenish them with new lives (they must have at least 1 life tag left in order to receiveadditional lives). When a player has been “tagged” by its predator, he/she must surrender a “life” tag. The predator must than wait 30 seconds before they may catch the same or another victim. A player can be tagged anywhere on the field, even when they are gettinga stamp for their survival card. Once a player has lost all of their lives, they must sit
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