Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about the food chain. It is designed to complement the Food Chain topic page on BrainPOP Jr.  

Food chains and food webs are crucial science concepts that help children understand how living things in nature are connected, and how humans’ actions can affect the environment. Remind your children that living things are divided into different groups, including producers and consumers. Consumers are further divided into more groups such as herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. A food chain shows how living things rely on each other for food and how energy is moved from one living thing to another. A food web is a group of connected food chains. Food chains and food webs show the interconnected relationships between predators and prey. Remind your children that a predator is a living thing that hunts animals, and that prey is an animal eaten by predators.

Living things are divided into many different groups, including producers and consumers. Producers, also called autotrophs, are living things that can produce, or make, their own food. Plants use photosynthesis to produce their own food and grow. We recommend watching the Parts of a Plant movie together as a review. Tiny aquatic organisms such as plankton also rely on the Sun’s energy to make their own food. Most of Earth’s living things are made up of producers. Consumers are living things that eat other living things. Herbivores are animals that eat only plants, such as deer, squirrels, and butterflies. Carnivores are animals that eat only other animals, such as lions, sharks, and preying mantises. Omnivores are animals that eat both plants and animals, such as bears, hedgehogs, and humans. Although not mentioned in the movie, children might also like to learn that there are two rarer types of consumers, parasites (who feed off of other living organisms) and scavengers (who eat animal carcasses but do not hunt themselves).

All living things rely on each other for food and energy. A food chain shows this relationship and how energy gets transferred from one living thing to the next. For example, a plant uses the energy from the Sun to make its own food. Insects such as caterpillars rely on the plants for food. Small birds eat caterpillars, while other animals such as predatory birds, cats, and foxes hunt smaller birds. Review with your children that a predator is a living thing that hunts animals, and prey is an animal eaten by predators. In the example above, caterpillars are prey for small birds, and small birds are prey for cats and foxes. In turn, cats and foxes are vulnerable to larger predators. Remind your children that an animal can be both a predator and prey for another animal.

A food web is a group of connected food chains. In the ocean, plankton use sunlight to produce their own food. Krill feed on plankton, while squid, fish, seals, penguins, and some species of whale feed on krill. Seals and penguins also feed on krill and squid, and seals prey on penguins as well. Killer whales and sharks feed on both seals and penguins. Adult killer whales are considered to be at the top of the food web because they have no natural predators. The food web is a complex system that is delicately balanced.

Predators help control the population of prey. If certain predators become threatened, endangered, or extinct, the population of their prey might increase and create an imbalance within the ecosystem. If certain kinds of prey become endangered, a species of predator might find food difficult to find and their own numbers might decrease. Human involvement in the form of habitat destruction, pollution, use of pesticides, and overfishing can negatively affect food webs and food chains.

Help your children understand that humans’ actions can affect countless other organisms. Let them know that, while extinction—the loss of a species—has always occurred within the ecosystem, its rate has increased more than 1000% since the industrial revolution began 200 years ago. Children should be aware of environmental problems and actions they can take to help their world. Remind them that they are part of the food web, too. Exploring these concepts with your children will help them understand the world around them and foster a sense of global community and responsibility.

Extension Activities:

Living things are divided into many different groups, including producers and consumers. Producers, also called autotrophs, are living things that can produce, or make, their own food. Plants use photosynthesis to produce their own food and grow. We recommend watching the Parts of a Plant movie together as a review. Tiny aquatic organisms such as plankton also rely on the Sun’s energy to make their own food. Most of Earth’s living things are made up of producers. Consumers are living things that eat other living things. Herbivores are animals that eat only plants, such as deer, squirrels, and butterflies. Carnivores are animals that eat only other animals, such as lions, sharks, and preying mantises. Omnivores are animals that eat both plants and animals, such as bears, hedgehogs, and humans. Although not mentioned in the movie, children might also like to learn that there are two rarer types of consumers, parasites (who feed off of other living organisms) and scavengers (who eat animal carcasses but do not hunt themselves).

All living things rely on each other for food and energy. A food chain shows this relationship and how energy gets transferred from one living thing to the next. For example, a plant uses the energy from the Sun to make its own food. Insects such as caterpillars rely on the plants for food. Small birds eat caterpillars, while other animals such as predatory birds, cats, and foxes hunt smaller birds. Review with your children that a predator is a living thing that hunts animals, and prey is an animal eaten by predators. In the example above, caterpillars are prey for small birds, and small birds are prey for cats and foxes. In turn, cats and foxes are vulnerable to larger predators. Remind your children that an animal can be both a predator and prey for another animal.

A food web is a group of connected food chains. In the ocean, plankton use sunlight to produce their own food. Krill feed on plankton, while squid, fish, seals, penguins, and some species of whale feed on krill. Seals and penguins also feed on krill and squid, and seals prey on penguins as well. Killer whales and sharks feed on both seals and penguins. Adult killer whales are considered to be at the top of the food web because they have no natural predators. The food web is a complex system that is delicately balanced.

Predators help control the population of prey. If certain predators become threatened, endangered, or extinct, the population of their prey might increase and create an imbalance within the ecosystem. If certain kinds of prey become endangered, a species of predator might find food difficult to find and their own numbers might decrease. Human involvement in the form of habitat destruction, pollution, use of pesticides, and overfishing can negatively affect food webs and food chains.

Help your children understand that humans’ actions can affect countless other organisms. Let them know that, while extinction—the loss of a species—has always occurred within the ecosystem, its rate has increased more than 1000% since the industrial revolution began 200 years ago. Children should be aware of environmental problems and actions they can take to help their world. Remind them that they are part of the food web, too. Exploring these concepts with your children will help them understand the world around them and foster a sense of global community and responsibility.

Filed as:  Animals, Food Chain, K-3, Science
Comments