Environmental and Outdoor Education (EOE) Model Lesson - To Consume or Be Consumed

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These model lessons were created by teachers participating in the Minnesota Department of Education's 2011-13 project, "Integrating Environmental and Outdoor Education into Grades 7-12" with funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

Title of lesson: To Consume or Be Consumed
Content area: Middle School Science
Grade level: 7

Learning objective: Students will understand the relationship between predators/prey and will know that producers are the start of all food webs/chains, that primary consumers eat producers and that secondary consumers eat primary consumers

Standard or benchmark addressed:
Science Identify a variety of populations and communities in an ecosystem and describe the relationships among the populations and communities in a stable ecosystem. Compare and contrast the roles of organisms with the following relationships: predator/prey, parasite/host, and producer/consumer/decomposer.

Description of lesson and how it is adapted for EOE:
NOTE: In preparation for this lesson, students have designed and engineered pvc marshmallow shooters. They should also have a basic understanding of how plants grow through photosynthesis.
This lesson is best suited for outdoors and is most effective in wooded or tall prairie grass areas.
Students are shown all of the plants and trees in the area. They are asked how these plants grow. Students will probably say "the sun, and rain". Don't forget to remind them that the very act of them answering is helping the plants grow (CO2 from their breath). The combination of those 3 things helps a plant "produce" its own food by photosynthesis. That is why they are called PRODUCERS.
Let students know that many organisms get their energy by eating producers (plants). See if students can name or identify some of these organisms. These might include rabbits, woodchucks, caterpillars, deer, birds, etc. These animals are HERBIVORES. Since they are the first organisms to eat or consume in the food chain/web, they are also called PIMARY CONSUMERS.
Now explain that many animals eat or consume those primary consumers. If they are the second set of organisms to consume in the food web/chain, ask students what they think they are called. That's right, SECONDARY CONSUMERS.
Tell students there are names for organisms in these eat or be eaten relationships. The PREDATOR eats the PREY. A good way to remember who's who in this relationship is that if you are running from something that wants to eat you, you "pray" that you don't get caught! To not get caught, many of these organisms use CAMOUFLAGE to hide.

Teacher's role:
Now divide students up into two groups. Tell them that one group is going to be scared rabbits (you can also use deer, ducks, etc.) and that they will be the prey. Then tell them that the other group will be the hunters (predators). The hunters will be using their marshmallow shooters to hunt the rabbits in the woods/grass. The rabbits will be using camouflage to hide. If the rabbits can go for 5 minutes (in a designated area) without being shot by a marshmallow then they will be successful in survival. Hunters can flush out rabbits and the rabbits can run and hide again, they just can't get shot.
Have the predators count down 2 minutes while the rabbits go into the woods and hide. At the end of 2 minutes, the predators go in to hunt the prey. Start your 5 minute countdown and see which of the prey lives to eat producers another day!
At the end of the round, switch roles.

Other resources needed:
Stop watch, marshmallow shooters, camouflage clothing

How students are assessed:
Ask students which role they like to play more: PREDATOR/PREY. You might also ask them which one they would rather be in nature and why. The following day you might want to give a quiz using the vocabulary words underlined above.

Time considerations:
40 minutes minus travel time.

Environmental and Outdoor Education (EOE) Model Lessons are freely available for use by all teachers for educational purposes only.

Jesse Maloney, Concordia Creative Learning Academy, St. Paul, MN
Topic Areas: 
Food Chain
Physical Education
Environmental Studies
Target Audience: 
Grades Pre K-12
Geographic Location: 
All Minnesota
Enhancements / Connections: 

See what happens when you have less predators and more prey or vise versa. For each surviving rabbit, have 2 more rabbits enter the next round because of their rapid reproduction. Introduce other predators like dogs into the game (they would hunt without shooters). Try the activity with and then without camouflage.

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