Food web cards
Food web cards

This week in EDUC1706 pre-service education students will develop understandings that:

  1. Living things hold energy within them
  2. Energy is moved through living systems
  3. Animals gain energy by consuming other living things
  4. Plants gain energy from the sun via photosynthesis

Australian Curriculum content:

  • Science Understanding (Biological sciences) (Year 7)
    • Interactions between organisms can be described in terms of food chains and food webs; human activity can affect these interactions (ACSSU112)
  • Science as a Human Endeavour (Use and influence of science) (Year 7)
    • Science understanding influences the development of practices in areas of human activity such as industry, agriculture and marine and terrestrial resource management (ACSHE121)
  • Science Inquiry Skills (Year 7)
    • Collaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments, ensuring safety and ethical guidelines are followed (ACSIS125)
    • Reflect on the method used to investigate a question or solve a problem, including evaluating the quality of the data collected, and identify improvements to the method (ACSIS131)

Overarching idea: Matter and energy

The lesson follows the 5Es format of science inquiry as laid out by Primary Connections resources.

In the Engage phase, we are scaffolding students to create a food web from the details of organisms that they can find in our local area (St Lucia, Brisbane).

In the Explore phase, students will be surveying the local environment to identify different elements of the ecosystem.

Sam drawing his food web
Sam drawing his food web

In the Explain phase (back in the classroom), students will explain how energy flows from the sun through the trophic levels, and how the local environment supports local wildlife.

In the Elaborate phase, students will investigate how light intensity affects the rate of photosynthesis using elodea plants.

Finally, in the Evaluation phase, students will evaluate the value of the sun for the sustainability of Earth’s ecosystems.

Each of the tutors had responsibility for planning a part of the tutorial, and I volunteered to generate the Engage phase of the lesson.

I used to have a great resource from UQ’s now defunct Bright Minds program, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it! It involved students representing different organisms within an Australian ecosystem passing wool around to show the flow of energy through the food web. I had a good scour using Google but couldn’t find anything printable there (digital and online learning has its place and purpose but doesn’t suit this activity).

Atlas of Living Australia (app)
Atlas of Living Australia (app)

So I gave in, and used Wikipedia and the Atlas of Living Australia to create my own resource set, which includes organism cards and wool. Click here on Food Web Brisbane to download my cards (Creative Commons).

Here’s what will happen in this learning experience:

Each student but one will receive a card with details about an organism, including what it eats and what eats it. The student without a card is declared the sun.

Standing in a circle, the student who is the sun holds a ball of wool. He or she passes the ball of wool to an organism that stores energy from the sun. That organism then passes the ball of wool to an organism that consumes it… eventually the wool will reach a decomposer.

Tutorial 1 and their food web
Tutorial 1 and their food web

Using a second, third and fourth ball of wool, three more food chains can be developed by the students, building a visual demonstration of the interconnections between diverse creatures within a local ecosystem.

At the same time we will discuss questions of biomass, biodiversity, laws of thermodynamics, and trophic levels. Related topics include sustainability and climate change.