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This weeks activity is based off the book, “If Sharks Disappeared?”. This book is all about what could and would happen to the ecosystem if sharks disappeared from the planet. Humans, animals, plants, and microscopic life on our planet depend on one another. If one of them disappears, the entire ecosystem weakens or eventually collapses. It’s a great picture book for kids and my children LOVED it!
Claire Dorsett (Associate Director of Exhibits at the Great Lakes Science Center) will share more on the book later in a guest post for my Reading STEM’s Learning Series. She recommended it to me. She manages the exhibits that are displayed to the public at the Great Lakes Science Center. As she said in her interview, a fun challenge in her job is to “distill complex concepts down into simple, understandable chunks…”. This activity is a great example of how she does this work through exhibits – in this example, the complex topic of ecosystems and food chains.
Purpose of the activity:
- Help children understand the cause and effect of events that can ripple through an entire ecosystem when a species disappears.
What you need:
- Jenga blocks
- Food chain example that includes an apex predator (shark, tiger, bear, etc.)
- Photos / drawings of the food chain predators and prey & tape OR use blue painters tape to write the names on them.
What you do:
- Write your food chain list starting with an apex predator with prey as far as you can imagine and brainstorm. Be sure to include plants and insects too!
- Either print images of the food chain, have the children draw them, or write the names on blue painters tape and stick them to the Jenga blocks.
- Stack the blocks to either resemble your food pyramid or stack them anyway that you want to.
- Have the children pull out a block one by one and observe how each block (or species) that is removed from the tower makes it more and more fragile.
We chose to stack the apex predator, a shark, on the bottom of our tower with the prey near the top, however they could also be stacked in the opposite direction as well. No matter which way you stack them, talk to your children about how important the bottom blocks are to the rest of the structure. Everything is very closely interdependent on one another so the stacking of the blocks is not as important.
Even by removing just a few blocks, the structure is fragile. The same happens in the ecosystem when just one member of the food chain is removed no matter how small or seemly insignificant it may be.
Thank you to Claire and the Great Lakes Science Center for sharing this activity with us! My children loved both the activity and the book! They learned quite a bit about the food chain and ecosystem and it generated a lot of great questions from my 5 year old in particular.
If you decide to try this activity at home, please share it with me by tagging me on social media or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!