Unit Overview

In the Food Web unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on interactions in the environment, predator-prey relationships, and the transfer of energy within an ecosystem.

Lesson Overview

Medium 1s 640Solve: Hungry Frog Mystery + Vocabulary Mind Map

Students contextualize Food Web vocabulary before helping Mosa Mack solve the mystery of the disappearing grasshoppers. By the end of The Solve, students learn the relationship between four organisms in a food chain. (70 min)

Medium 2m 640Make: Design a Food Web to Show Feeding Relationships

Students design their own food web to show feeding relationships between the organisms in an environment. (90 min)

Medium 3e 640Engineer: Engineer a Solution to a Food Waste Problem

Students use their knowledge of the food web to design a solution that reduces the amount of waste your cafeteria sends to the local landfill. (180 min)

Next Generations Science Standards

Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Connections to Nature of Science
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Engaging in Arguments From Evidence
  • Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena
  • Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Cycle of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
  • Developing Possible Solutions
  • Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
  • Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
  • Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
  • Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science
  • Connections to Nature of Science
  • Energy and Matter
  • Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World
  • Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World
  • Scientific Knowledge Assumes an Order and Consistency in Natural Systems
  • Stability and Change
  • Systems and System Models

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • Arrows in a food web show the direction of energy flow, not which predators eat which prey. Directionality of arrows matters.
  • Not all of the energy in one organism gets passed to the next level of organism. 90% gets released as heat.
  • Not all organisms need to eat others to get energy. Producers produce their own energy from the sun.


    • Ecosystem
    • Predator
    • Producer
    • Primary Consumer
    • Decomposer
    • Secondary Consumer

Content Expert

  • Clive G. Jones
    Terrestrial Ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Expertise: Biodiversity, Environmental Management Modeling and Assimilation Office


  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Cards
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout

New: RocketLit Leveled Reading

* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

  • Energy Pyramid

    Energy for life starts out with producers, those organisms that can make their own food. From there, energy is lost to the environment as each different living thing is consumed by another. We can use a pyramid to envision the spread of life at each level and how energy is passed up to higher level organisms.

  • The Sun Powers It All

    Introducing the unit, this article builds up that in order for everything to have the energy it needs to live, we need the sun and the organisms that make food from its energy. These organisms store the energy they make and are used by other living things to get the energy they need.

  • Can't We All Just Get Along?

    In cartoons, we might see different organisms being either friends or enemies, but in nature it's much more complicated. Symbiotic relationships change the way both organisms live, and some can be mutualistic (good for both). Some relationships are parasitic (take, hurt, take) and others are more commensal which help one organism involved and don't hurt the other.

  • What's Your Job?

    Different organisms have different jobs in an ecosystem, but sometimes they step on each other's toes. This article explains how organisms compete with each other for living space, the roles that they have and the niches that they fit into within their environment.

  • Nitrogen Cycle

    In this article, students read about the different parts of the nitrogen cycle. We breathe in nitrogen with every breath, but we can't use any of it. Without bacteria and plants making nitrogen available, living things wouldn't even have the things they need to build DNA!

  • What's For Dinner?

    In the energy pyramid and food web, there are specific roles that different organisms play. Some put energy into the system, others eat each other for energy, and some breakdown dead things to recycle them back into the environment.

  • Webs Are Not Only For Spiders

    Food webs are much more complicated than a simple food chain, and they show the way that energy is exchanged by organisms. Since there are so many different thing connected in ecosystems, balance of each resource is very important and difficult to maintain.