• Views 27
  • Favorites
Photo by Egor Kamelev via Pexels


Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point K-12 Energy Education Program


K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Midwest, Wisconsin



Detecting Schoolyard Food Chains

Ask a Question

  • In this lesson, students act as detectives to determine what food chains exist in their backyards or schoolyards.
  • Students will have a designated area to study, research the food chains they find, and present their findings to the class.
Teaching Tips


  • This activity involves each student group looking at their own area, which can provide some variety in student responses.
  • There are many great opportunities for extension listed in this lesson.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The Energy Learning Log, referenced in the lesson is not located in this lesson document. However, typing "Keep Know The Flow" in a search engine (or using this link) should take you to the main guide for these lessons, which will detail some of the bolded items mentioned in this lesson.
  • Students should understand that plants get their energy from the sun and that many animals get their energy from eating plants.
  • Students should know the expectations of working outside and with a partner.


  • Students in math classes can keep data on how many organisms they see in their designated area daily, then create a graph to show patterns and trends.
  • Students in language arts classes can choose one organism from their food chain to write an informative report about.
  • Students can discuss what may happen in a food chain with the effects of climate change. For example, what might happen in a food chain where rising temperatures lead to less of a certain type of insect that is not equipped to handle hotter temperatures? What might happen if insects that live in hotter temperatures migrate to areas that have increasing temperatures and start to eat a lot of the plants?
Scientist Notes
This resource from Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) tasks students with observing food chains in their schoolyard. Students are asked to serve as “Food Chain Detectives” as they use a stretched out coat hanger as their study area and investigate what food chains they can see within it. This resource uses a fun activity to teach about the multiple links of the food chain, and care is taken to make sure that students understand the importance of the sun in the food chain. An extension activity uses composting to help students understand the role of decomposers in the food chain. This resource features clear instructions, a fun and educational activity and is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Language (K-12)
      • L.K.5 With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
      • L.1.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
      • L.2.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
      • L.3.3 Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
      • L.4.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • RI.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
      • RI.K.10 Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
      • RI.1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
      • RI.1.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
      • RI.3.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
      • RI.3.7 Use information gained from text features (e.g., illustrations, maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
    • Reading: Literature (K-12)
      • RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).
      • RL.K.10 Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • SL.K.3 Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.
      • SL.1.4 Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.
      • SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
      • SL.2.2 Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
      • SL.3.6 Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
      • SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    • Writing (K-12)
      • W.1.1 Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
      • W.2.3 Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.
      • W.3.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
      • W.4.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • K-ESS3-1. Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including humans) and the places they live.
    • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
      • 1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
  • Related Resources


    Login to leave a review