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The Nutrient Cycle

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

Why do various living things have varied diets in an ecosystem?

Unit Summary:

Students will explore why living things consume various foods for fuel. As in the commercial, all animals need proper nutrition which in turn builds the food web.

Hook Event:

Pick an ecosystem within your county. Research the living (animals and plants) and nonliving (rocks, water, soil) components of the system. What eats what in your ecosystem? Make a diagram to show how the living and nonliving components are interacting.

Culminating Event:

Students will design a model of a food web tracking the nutrients through an ecosystem.


Science Standards:

MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

Math Standards:

ELA and Other Standards:

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

ActivityDescriptionResources and Materials
Activity One

Watch the Betty White Snickers commercial to introduce food as fuel. Place students in groups of 4-5.  Decide on roles within the group. Groups will select a specific TVA area, referred to as an ecosystem, to research.


Activity Two

Groups will research living and non-living components of the chosen ecosystem.

Google doc to share information and images; Google sheet to begin building the model

Internet resources. TDEC, TVA, TWRA

Textbook online or physical

Activity Three

Students will watch the Energy flow introduction-

Students will research the flow of energy in their group’s ecosystem. 

Khan Academy energy flow

Activity Four

Students will create a Food Web model design, representing producers and consumers. Students will label all living and non-living components as either producer or consumer.   The food web will represent the flow of energy.

Activity Five

Students will finalize models and build a presentation to present their model. Peers will review each other’s presentations.

Activity Six

Students will present their Food Web model to their classmates.


Technology Integration: Students will use Google Docs and Google Sheets to communicate with each other in the group. By sharing a document and the sheet, all students in the group can review and edit the food web model and information.

Community PartnersContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
TVATVA resources on each of the ecosystems. 
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

TDEC resources on the invertebrates are often forgotten in a system.

TWRATWRA wildlife resources 

Capstone Presentation:

Students will present the digital Food Web models to the class, highlighting the producers and consumers as well as the specific energy flow. The model will be on Google Sheets so students can use digital images and present them on the Promethean Board. Presentations can be in cartoon strips, rap songs, or dioramas.

Lesson Resources