Lesson Plan

Quick Draw

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fifth Grade
Biodiversity, Ecology
20 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Colorado Science: 2nd grade 2.2; 4th grade 2.3
Colorado Visual Art: all grades 3.1
trophic, ecosystem


Students will learn how trophic levels differ and are similar among ecosystems.


Students will learn how trophic levels differ and are similar among ecosystems.


All ecosystems are based upon the abiotic characteristics of the landscape and climate. The combined topography, soil type, amount of precipitation, amount of sunlight, temperature regime, and wind regime all affect what kind of life will grow in a particular area.

Out of these abiotic factors emerge the first level of life-the producers. As a group, producers make up what ecologists refer to as the first trophic level. Producers are the algae, cyanobacteria, and plants within an ecosystem. They produce the foods on which the other trophic levels feed. Trophic levels are simply a way for ecologists to describe the food chain. It is important to note that trophic levels are visualized as pyramidal in shape. Because energy is lost in the form of heat at each level, the quantity of life that can be supported becomes smaller at each level. All biological factors decrease at each ascending level: energy, biomass, and number of organisms.

Biological systems are typically composed of four trophic levels:

producers-herbivores-small carnivores-large carnivores

There are animals that overlap these groupings, such as scavengers and omnivores.

In this activity, students will create fictitious scenes on paper, describing interactions within the four trophic levels.

Explore Great Sand Dunes' web pages on park ecosystems, plants, and animals to learn more about the biological systems in the park and preserve.



Paper, drawing materials



As a class, make a list of the wild animals you have seen. Why do we see more herbivores than carnivores when we are out in nature? Which trophic level of animals spend the most time eating, and why? Where do humans fall within (or beyond) the trophic pyramid? How do we differ from all the other organisms within each trophic level? How are we similar?


The card game Habistack reinforces the trophic level concepts learned here with a game based on the ecology of Great Sand Dunes.


abiotic, carnivore, ecosystem, food web, herbivore, producer, trophic levels

Last updated: February 24, 2015