The Food Chain
Producer, consumer, and decomposer in a pond ecosystem. (Stiling, P.D. Ecology: Theories and Applications 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, NJ, 1992)


The term ecosystem was coined by the British plant ecologist Tansley (1935) to include not only the community of organisms in an environment, but also the whole complex of physical factors around them. Basically, how they are dependent on the ecology and other living organisms to survive. The concept can be applied at any scale; a drop of water inhabited by protozoa is an ecosystem, and an ocean or bay inhabited by many millions of different living organisms is another. Whether observing a small part of an ecosystem or an entire large ecosystem, such as the Chesapeake Bay, you'll find feeding relationships among the organisms. Food is required for the life processes of every organism, whether it is a producer, a consumer, or a decomposer. We call this a food chain. When a healthy ecosystem is observed then the "circle of life" is intact.


food chain

Chesapeake Bay Ecology
University of Md. Center for Environmental Services


GOAL: Students will gain a thorough knowledge of the food chain of the Chesapeake Bay area and its importance in the ecological balance of the Bay.

OBJECTIVES: The students will;

  1. Define and use the new vocabulary words in sentence or paragraph form
  2. Identify and give an example of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores
  3. Identify and give an example of producers, consumers, and decomposers
  4. Compare and contrast; herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores
  5. Compare and contrast; producers, consumers, and decomposers
  6. Recognize and understand the sequence and balance of the food chain in maintaining a healthy ecosystem


  1. Graphic of a food chain
  2. Vocabulary Bank
  3. Middle School Text Book - Science Interactions, Course 1, Glencoe 1995 - pages 356 - 357
  4. Transparency Masters/Color Transparency - Teacher Resource Box - Science Interactions, Course 1
  5. Individual student sets of the different living organisms living in the Chesapeake Bay (Living organisms pictures)


  1. WARM-UP: a)Make a list of all living organisms you would find in the Chesapeake Bay. b) Classify these organisms according to their common characteristics.
    • Show graphic of the food chain. Name, identify, and discuss the living organisms pictured.
    • Have vocabulary bank written on the board. Have students define, as a class, each word, and give examples of each. Relate it back to the graphic of the food chain.
    • Read from the text book. Utilize the enrichment exercises listed in the teacher's edition along with the transparencies.
  3. ROLL PLAYING ACTIVITY: Have the students play the parts of a food chain. Have them identify what plants or animals they are and explain whether they are producers or consumers.
  4. HANDS ON ACTIVITY: Using the pictures of the different living organisms that live in the Bay, have the students put their individual sets in sequencial order of how they would exist in the food chain.

PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT: a)Using a copy of the food chain graphic with the identifying names and classifications erased, have the students fill in the correct names, types, and classifications, of the living organisms presented in the picture. b) Students will write a short essay explaining the sequence of the food chain and its importance in maintaining the "circle of life."  









 The Chesapeake Bay in Maryland - an atlas of natural resources, edited and illustrated by Alice J. Lippson, The Johns Hopkins University Press - Baltimore and London, 1973



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