Lesson Plan

Bison Banquet

Bison on the prairie
Bison on the prairie

Larry McAfee, National Park Service photograph

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fourth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Ecology, Environment
50 minutes (1 period)
National/State Standards:
SD Life Science Standards: 3.L.3.1, 3.L.3.2, 4.L.3.1


All life needs energy to grow and survive. Plants receive a vital part of their energy from the Sun, while animals receive their energy from eating plants or other animals. The path energy takes through an series of organisms is known as a food chain, while all the paths energy can travel through an ecosystem is known as a food web. Discover how the mixed-grass prairie plants and animals of Badlands National Park are connected to each other through food chains and an overall food web.


Students will be able to trace prairie food chains and illustrate a prairie food web.


A food web shows how energy is transferred in the environment. Energy is transferred from the Sun to plants, then to herbivores (plant eaters), then to carnivores (meat eaters).

The mixed-grass prairie ecosystem of Badlands National Park is home to a variety of plants, herbivores, and carnivores. Herbivores like grasshoppers and rabbits eat grasses like ricegrass and wheatgrass. Meanwhile, birds like the meadowlark and the golden eagle prey upon the herbivores. As is the case in most ecosystems, plants and herbivores can be energy sources for many different animals.


Student worksheets, Prairie Food Web Answer Key, pencils, and classroom whiteboard


Additional Resources

These resources are available through Badlands National History Association (BNHA), a not-for-profit organization established to support education and research efforts at Badlands National Park.

  • America's Prairie and Grasslands by Marianne D. Wallace
  • Local Tracks of North America "Quick Guide"
  • Golden Guide: Mammals
  • Badlands Suite: Land of Stone and Light, From Field to Lab, Multiple Perspectives DVD


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Last updated: April 10, 2015