Food Chain Stacking Cups

I was recently perusing the E is for Explore website when I came across what looked to be a fun tool for kids to use while developing an understanding for food chains.

Food chain stacking cups are a visually appealing way to build the concept that the energy larger predators in ecosystems consume comes directly from smaller consumers and producers.

With Massachusetts home to plenty of habitats with vast food chains and webs I expanded on the original E is for Explore stacking set (who cites Earth Mama’s World as their inspiration) and created food chains for ponds and the ocean along with the better known grasslands. A full template with all three ecosystems and photo credits can be found here or you can copy each image below and create your own stackable food chains.

A great thing about these cups is they are simple to make and easy to store. You can also add additional cups with other creatures that are a part of the ecosystem and stack the cups as if you were making a stackable “food web / pyramid” (warning: you’ll have to make many more producer cups to make this work!)

Life Science expert, Wendy Pavlicek of the Science Center noted that “phytoplankton” and “zooplankton” are likely words outside of elementary students’ vocabulary but can be included to stretch high-level students or adapted to simply read “plankton.”

If you end up using these templates or making your own please drop me a line or leave a comment letting me know how your lesson goes. I’ll be trying them out on Burlington’s cubscouts earning their Wildlife Conservation belt loop tonight!

About Sean Musselman

Teacher Dad and Burlington MA Schools K-5 Science and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator. NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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