Grade Level: 2-5 Duration: 1 hour Next Generation Sunshine State Standards SC.3.L.14.1; SC.3.L.15.1; SC.3.L.17.1; SC.3.L.17.2; SC.3.N.1.6; SC.3.N.3.1; SC.4.L.17.1; SC.4.L.17.2; SC.4.L.17.3; SC.4.L.17.4; SC.4.N.1.1; SC.4.N.2.1; SC.5.L.15.1; SC.5.L.17.1. Program Overview: Florida is home to many large predators. Learn about food webs, and how each species holds an important role in the ecosystem. Learn about the Conservancy’s research on endangered species such as the Florida Panther. Have fun exploring where these animals live, what they need to survive, and what you can do to help them. Vocabulary Keystone species Decomposer Trophic level Apex predator Endangered Species Ecosystem Objective: Students will learn the flow of a food web, discover distinctive characteristics of both predator and prey, study the necessity of a balanced ecosystem, and determine the importance of an apex predator. Pre-Program Activity 1: Food Web Interactions Introduce students to the concept of a food web. Explain that energy travels up the food chain, as each organism consumes another. You could print out the food web below for each student, or answer questions as a class. Questions to ask: 1) What is a predator? Answer: an animal that eats another animal 2) What is a prey? Answer: an animal that gets eaten 3) Can you identify the predators in this food web? 4) Can you identify the prey in this food web? 5) What would happen if you completely eliminated any one species in the web? *You could get creative and say something like “a big shopping center was built and wiped out all of the foxes and their habitat.” 6) Wrap it all up by emphasizing that all species in an ecosystem are interconnected, or dependent upon one another in some way. If you eliminate any one species, it will have some kind of effect on all the others. Predators are vital in an ecosystem, as are prey. Pre-Program Activity 2: Apex Predators Introduce to students the concept of an apex predator: an animal at the top of the food chain because it has few or no predators. You can either print out the food webs below, or Google “Florida Food Webs” to work from a computer. Have students circle, or identify the apex predator(s) in each food web: Apex predators: humans, eagle Apex predators: cougar, bald eagle Apex predators: humans (this one is tricky because of the layout of the web) Post-Program Activity 1: Apex Predator Research We have learned about some of Florida’s apex predators (reiterate that an apex predator is at the top of the food chain because it has few or no predators). Some examples are: Florida panther Bald eagle River otter Florida black bear Golden eagle Burmese python (non-native) Bobcat Bull shark Hammerhead shark Alligator Goliath grouper Ask students if they can think of any others. Next, assign, or have students choose one apex predator to research in the library or computer lab. Have them focus on the following questions: 1) What type of habitat does this animal live in? 2) How big does it get? 3) How many young (babies) does it have, and how often? 4) What does it eat? 5) Does it have any threats? 6) What would happen if this animal went extinct? (continued on next page) Post-Program Activity2: Prey Defenses What would you do if something big and hungry wanted to eat you? When prey animals are hunted, they must have some kind of defense or else they will be eaten. Some defenses are: 1) Speed 2) Play dead 3) Poisonous/venomous, sometimes with bright colors 4) Camouflage 5) Look-alike (sometimes a non-poisonous animal will look like a poisonous one, and the predator can’t tell the difference so he just stays away!) These defenses are called adaptations and they are crucial to the prey’s survival. Have students research these adaptations, and try to come up with one Florida animal for each one. How does the adaptation help this animal survive against predators?