Lesson Plan on Building a Food Chain: A Hands-on Science Activity

This lesson plan on building a food chain is an excellent way for students to learn the basic components of a food chain. Students will also become familiar with basic vocabulary associated with food chains.


Reading material from science textbook about food chains

What are Food Chains and Webs? (The Science of Living Things) by Bobbie Kalman (optional)

Index cards

Pictures of things found in a food chain (optional)

Glue (optional)



Science journals or notebook paper


Before you teach this lesson, make the cards for the activity. You can find and print pictures of examples of producers, consumers, and decomposers and glue them to the index cards. If you cannot do that, you can use a marker to write the name of a producer, consumer, or decomposer on the card. Be sure to include first, second, and third order consumers. You could also draw a simple picture on the card. Make enough cards so that every student gets one. You will have to make several different food chains depending on the size of your class.

Prior Knowledge

Talk to students about what they eat. Ask students if they know where it comes from. Talk about what an animal in the wild might eat.


Read about food chains from your science textbook or from What are Food Chains and Webs? Talk about what a producer, consumer, and a decomposer are. Briefly explain that all food chains start with a producer. Then, a consumer eats the producer. Once the consumer dies, it is broken down by a decomposer. Give them a few examples. A flower grows, and a rabbit comes to eat it. Then, a wolf eats the rabbit. The wolf dies, and bacteria and fungus break down his body into nutrients for the soil. See if students can come up with some examples on their own.

Then, teach about differences between first, second, and third order consumers. Teach that a first order consumer is eaten by many other consumers, like a mouse. Then, explain that a second order consumer eats first order consumers, like a snake. Then, a third order consumer eats the second order consumer, like a hawk. Give examples of food chains that have first, second, and third order consumers. See if students can also give examples.


Explain to your students that you are about to play a game. Tell students that you will pass out a card to them face down. When you say go, students will flip over their cards. Then, using their cards, they will try to make food chains. Tell students that you will be timing them. Tell them how many food chains they will be making using the cards. Explain to students that you will stop timing when all the food chains have been formed.

Pass out the cards and see how quickly students can form the food chains. When they have finished, have them tell the class what was on their cards and identify if it is a producer, consumer, or decomposer. Play again to see if they can beat their time. Make sure everyone gets a different card for the second round.


Have students draw an example of a food chain with a producer, first, second, and third order consumer, and a decomposer. Have them label the producer, consumers, and decomposer.


Teach about herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Explain the relationship between that and first, second, and third order consumers. Have students divide a paper into thirds and draw examples of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Then, have them label the examples as first, second, or third order consumers.

Teach about food webs. Place students in groups and have them create food webs.

After completing this lesson plan on building a food chain, your students will know how a food chain is constructed and be able to form one.