Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sharks and the Marine Food Web Lesson Plan

Sharks and the Marine Food Web Lesson Plan
Subject: Life Science, Marine Conservation
Topic: Sharks and the Marine Food Web
Grade level: All
Duration: 60 minutes

Standards Addressed (from the Next Generation Science Standards):
-MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services
-MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

Objectives: Students will be able to build a marine food web and state why sharks are vital to the food web.

Materials Needed:
- Pencils/ pens
- Paper/ journal
- Rope/ material to make circles with a 3 ft diameter.
- Cones/ physical markers for end zones
- White board +Marker
- Food Web Worksheet
- Construction Paper
- Scissors
- Glue/ tape

Engagement Activity: Food web tag (a variation of Sharks and Minnows)
- Ask students for examples of what sharks eat. (Ex. seals, large and small fish, turtles, etc)
- Play a game of Sharks and Minnows using two end zones marked off with cones or backpacks. You will need about 60 feet for this game (20 meters)

- Choose 5 “sharks” to be in the middle, all other students are fish and start in one end zone.
- Put three circles (large enough to fit two students) in between the two end zones as “Marine Protected Areas” where the fish can’t be eaten (Safe zone where the students can’t be tagged).
- Students are to run from one end zone to the other without getting “eaten” (tagged).
- When students are tagged, they just move off to the side until the end of the round.
- Each round lasts one run from one end zone, then back to the other end zone. Remove one shark and one safe zone after each round. You can also change sharks in each round so new kids can be the taggers.
- At the end of each round, count the number of remaining fish and record on

the white board vs. the number of sharks that were in the game.
- After 5 rounds (when there are no more sharks), look at the white board to see the number of surviving fish has changed as the number of sharks decreased (Students should see that as sharks decreased, fish populations increased)
- Ask the students to think on their own about why it might be a problem if there are too many fish in one part of the ocean. (Sample answer: they will eat too many smaller things until there is nothing left)
*Extension: Students can copy the table of Number of Sharks Vs. Number of Fish in their journal and create a coordinate graph of the data. 

Discussion: Why are sharks important?
- Bring students back to the classroom to discuss the findings from the game.
-  Ask students what happened when the sharks started to disappear? What would happen to the whole ecosystem if the sharks were to disappear?
- Introduce the term food web (a food cycle of varying levels of what eats what) and that everything is connected in the food web.
- Introduce the term Apex predator (an animal with no predator of their own) and state that sharks are apex predators and are at the top of their food web, or the top trophic level. Discuss with the students that apex predators are important to the food web because they control the populations of large fish that would otherwise eat all of the small fish in the ecosystem. Sharks help to keep the balance in a food web.
- Sharks get their energy from smaller species like fish, rays, lobsters, or turtles. Sharks are on the top trophic level (level on the food chain), while large fish, rays, and turtles are on the second trophic level and get their energy from lower trophic levels. What animals do you think are on the lower trophic levels?
- Using a Think, Pair, Share: think of some things that might be on the lower trophic levels. Turn to a partner and compare your ideas. Share some of those ideas with the rest of the group/ class.

Activity: Creating your own food web
- If computers/ tablets are available, students can participate in an interactive learning activity called “Food Web Dynamics” by typing in the URL:
Students are to read through the online cards and try the matching game to make their own marine food web!


- Students create their own food webs using cut outs of different marine species and glue and connecting them using arrows to symbolize where energy is being transferred as organisms are being eaten. 
Answers: Top trophic level (top consumers): Sharks, dolphins, and large birds; 4th trophic level (tertiary consumers):  large fish; 3rd trophic level (secondary consumers): small fish, crabs, lobster, whales, sea stars; 2nd trophic level (primary consumers):  shrimp, krill, oysters, copepods, mussels; Primary producers: Phytoplankton, detritus, and algae.

Cut-out worksheet for Food Web Activity courtesy of

Food Web Activity template courtesy of

Answer Key to Food Web Activity

Assessment: Volunteer log and journal
- Participants write a journal entry about the topic based on three questions:
What is a food web?
What part do sharks play in the marine food web?
What would YOUR food web look like?

Extension Activity
Students can participate in a shark survey. Shark surveys are important to the protection of sharks as they provide data on shark movement through the ocean, habits, habitats, and connections to other species.

1        Participate in a scuba dive in your local area to look for sharks. Record the time, date, location, and type of shark seen if possible. You can record this data and post it to


            If access to an internet connection is available, watch the video from the Guy Harvey Research Institute: to get an idea of why we survey sharks.
-Click the link to see the live tracking of various sharks around the world.
-Click on Jen on the right side of the screen. What species of shark is she? How long has Jen been tracked? How much total distance has she covered in that time?  Where has Jen been swimming?

- Click on “Animate Tracks.” Record two observations about Jen’s swimming patterns. Are there any hypotheses about the shark’s behavior that we can make based on the survey information provided?

Have you participated in a shark survey? Comment below and tell us about your experience.
Please share any lessons you have found on marine conservation in the comments below, we'd love to hear from you!

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