Lesson Plan

Flow of Energy through Trophic Levels


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Big Ideas




In this lesson, students identify the roles of organisms in food chains and create food chains. Students will:

  • describe the trophic levels in a food chain and a food web.
  • identify the roles of various organisms in an ecosystem.
  • construct an energy pyramid model and describe the flow of energy through an ecosystem.

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  • Ecology: The study of how organisms interact with their environment and with other organisms.
  • Ecosystem: All of the organisms that live in a certain area and their nonliving environment.
  • Food Chain: Steps in an ecosystem that show the transfer of energy as organisms are consuming one another.
  • Food Web: A complex network of interactions that shows the feeding relationships between organisms in an ecosystem.
  • Energy Pyramid: A diagram showing the flow of energy through a food chain.
  • Trophic Levels: The feeding levels in a food chain.
  • Producers: Organisms that use inorganic material such as sunlight or chemical compounds to produce their own food.
  • Consumers: Organisms that eat other organisms for energy.
  • Primary Consumers (herbivores): Organisms that eat producers.
  • Carnivores: Organisms that eat meat.
  • Secondary Consumers: Carnivores that eat herbivores.
  • Tertiary Consumers: Carnivores that eat secondary consumers.
  • Omnivores: Organisms that eat both plants and meat.
  • Decomposers: Organisms (bacteria and fungi) that break down decaying matter for energy and nutrients.
  • Law of Conservation of Energy: States that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed.
  • Ten Percent Rule: Only about 10 percent of the energy available in one trophic level is available to organisms in the next higher trophic level.


90 minutes/2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills


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Related Materials & Resources

The possible inclusion of commercial websites below is not an implied endorsement of their products, which are not free, and are not required for this lesson plan.

  • Food Chains & Food Webs


  • Energy Pyramid interactive tutorial; forest, prairie, and ocean energy pyramid examples


  • Pond Food Web interactive activity


  • A Food Pyramid in the Hot Desert Biome (shows kilocalories at each trophic level)


  • A Deciduous Forest Energy Pyramid (shows kilocalories at each trophic level)


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