Sunday, October 31, 2010

Science Lesson #2: Food Chain

Ideas for the Food Chain episode:

1. Trophic Levels (emphasis on vocabulary)
·         Primary Producers – photosynthetic plants
·         Primary Consumers – eat only plants (herbivores)
·         Secondary Consumers – eat Primary Consumers (carnivores and omnivores)
·         Tertiary and Quaternary Consumers – eat Secondary and Tertiary Consumers
·         Top Predator – EATS THE WORLD!
·         Decomposers and scavengers eat and break down what is dead

2. Ecosystems that don’t rely on the sun
·         Hydrothermal vents
·         New research on microbes that “eat” rocks on the sea floor (very neat)

3. Energy is lost at each trophic level

4. Spotlight on Primary Producers
·         Different types of plant ecosystems
o   Grasslands
o   Phytoplankton
o   Forests

5. Spotlight on Decomposers
·         It might be unpleasant for kids to think about what happens when something dies, but focus on the importance of the decomposers’ job to return energy back to the food web

5. How humans fit in
·         Top Predators
·         Eating a variety of different things is good
·         One meal can be eating on multiple trophic levels (salad + fish + ?)
·         Can interview an ecologist to talk about the balance of Food Chains
·         Touch on the different kinds of diets people have all over the world

It seems to me that this episode calls for a guest star. It would be great to have real scientists visit the show and give short lessons or interviews relating to the science theme. I can think of a few pretty awesome scientists I worked with in college who would be perfect for this. This way kids get to put a face on the business of science, letting them know that all scientists aren’t just anonymous nerds in starchy lab coats.

The character conflict for this episode could be that Sergio ruins his favorite cookbook and starts getting everybody’s meals wrong. Feeding them things that don’t make sense like inedible objects (lamps, pencils, shoes). The Crew and Marisol have to explain to him why they eat what they eat. The lesson on the food chain starts from there. Marisol finds out that Lily the Oceanographer is a vegetarian which leads into a discussion about that. In the end, the ship finds another copy of Sergio’s cookbook and all goes back to normal.

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