4-6, Unit Four, Activity 6: "Balance of Nature Pyramid"

Students will identify different food chains in a forest habitat and recognize that change to a habitat affects the animals living there. They will physically form food chain pyramids in a forest habitat and observe the effect of beaver arrival.

Grades: 4 – 6
Time: 1/2 to 1 hour
Subjects: Life science, physical education

Location: Outdoors


  • None needed.


  1. Discuss the concept of food chains with the students. Where do animals get their energy? (From other animals and plants.) Where do plants get their energy? (From the sun.) What, then, are the “ingredients” required for a food chain?
  2. Tell the students they are going to make a forest food chain pyramid, and ask them what ingredient will be on the bottom and why...Plants will be on the bottom, because all living things depend on them directly or indirectly for food.
  3. Select 3 or 4 students to form the plant base of the pyramid, asking the plants to agree on a tree in the forest they will represent. (It is generally best to choose large, sturdy students for the bottom.) The trees kneel down on their hands and knees, shoulders touching in a line.
  4. What animal/bird/insect in the forest depends on the chosen plant for its food? Select 2 or 3 students to represent this animal and have them stand behind the kneeling plants.
  5. What animal in the forest depends on the previously named animal for its food? Select 1 or 2 small, light students to represent this animal and have them stand behind the other animals.
  6. Now have the students build and hold their pyramid!
  7. Select a student who is not in the pyramid to represent a beaver family who has just moved into the area, and pull one of the trees out of the pyramid.
  8. After the tumble and laughter subsides, ask the students to explain what just happened...beavers are cutting down trees for their lodge and dam. What happens to animals in the forest when their habitat begins to shrink?
  9. This activity may be repeated using different forest pyramid builders: perhaps forest greens > snowshoe hare > lynx; with a student representing the flooding waters of a beaver dam pulling one of the forest green members out of the pyramid.

Is change good or bad in a habitat? Direct the students’ discussion towards the creation of a new habitat as a result of beaver dam building...a pond habitat.

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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