Grades 3-5 Activities

You may wish to use these activities before, during, and after your Museum visit to focus your experience around an educational theme.



Elementary Science Core Curriculum
Major Understandings
Living Environment 6.2b

• The Sun's energy is transferred on Earth from plants to animals through the food chain.
Online Video: Journey to the Stars Trailer and Prelude
To prepare for your Museum visit, watch the trailer and the prelude with your students.

Class Discussion: Sun's Energy & Food Chains
Review with students the Sun and its role in the food web (e.g. producers, consumers, decomposers). Ask:

• What kinds of energy does the Sun provide for Earth?
Answers may include: The Sun provides heat and light. Plants capture this energy through the process of photosynthesis, create sugars and starches, and store them for later use.

• Where do a plant, a grasshopper, a chicken, and a human get their food?
Answers may include: Plants take sunlight and turn it into food. Grasshoppers feed on plants. Chickens eat grasshoppers. Humans eat chickens, and perhaps grasshoppers.

• What is the relationship between the various parts of the food chain? Or: In a food chain, what is the relationship between a plant, a grasshopper, a chicken, and a human?
Answers may include: Plants are producers because of their ability to photosynthesize. Grasshoppers, humans, and chickens cannot photosynthesize—they are consumers. Consumers eat producers or other consumers.

• How is the Sun a part of the food chain?
Answers may include: Most living organisms need the Sun's energy for fuel. Some obtain this by either capturing energy from the Sun directly. Others feed on other living organisms that have stored up energy from the Sun. This is how the Sun's energy is transferred through the food chain. Thus, grasshoppers must eat plants to obtain energy from the Sun captured by the plant, chickens eat the grasshoppers that ate the plant, and humans feed on the chicken that ate the grasshopper that ate the plant to obtain energy from the Sun.

Hands-on Activity: Web of Life Game

NOTE: Distribute copies of the Student Worksheet before coming to the Museum.
Download and print instructions. Students can play this game to explore how all members of an ecosystem depend on each other to survive.


Journey to the Stars Planetarium Space Show (30 minutes)

TIP: Please plan to arrive at the 1st floor space show boarding area 15 minutes before the show starts.
Before the show, prompt students to think about these questions:

• How is the Sun important?
• What kinds of energy does the Sun provide for Earth?

Cullman Hall of the Universe: Explore an Ecosphere (20-30 minutes)

Ecosphere in Cullman Hall of the Universe
(click to enlarge)
On the lower level, find the giant glass ball. It is a totally enclosed, self-sustained ecosystem called an "ecosphere." Help students observe the things that are living and non-living, and then list them on their worksheets. (Tip: You may wish to have students use magnifying glasses.) Tell students that there are bacteria inside of the glass ball and that they're microscopic. They are not visible without the aid of a microscope. Ask: What role do the bacteria play in the ecosphere?
Answers may include: These bacteria are decomposers. They break down waste material produced by the shrimp and recycle it back into the system.


Online Activity: The Circle of Food Chain and Decomposition

Have students further explore food chains by reading The Circle of Food Chain and Decomposition. This article shows how a 7th-grader established an economical way of gardening at her new house. Ask students to identify the method presented in this article and record the different members of the food chain that enrich the soil for a successful garden.
Answers may include: The economical method of gardening is composting. Members of the food chain include dead and decaying plant matter, saprophytes, fungus, bacteria, earthworms, centipedes, roly-polys, and pillbugs.

Online Activity: Diagram of a Food Web

Have students explore the coral reef ecosystem on the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life website. Ask them to identify members of the food chain for this ecosystem and create a food web diagram. As an extension, have students build dioramas of this marine ecosystem. For ideas on building dioramas, visit oLogy: "Create A Coral Reef".

Sample food diagram:

Sample food diagram

Algae capture energy from the Sun through the process of photosynthesis and create food for later use. Parrotfish, dusky farmer fish, and the powder blue surgeonfish feed on algae to obtain energy from the Sun.

Also at the Museum Beyond Planet Earth


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Journey to the Stars Online Educator's Guide