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The food web game

Hedgerow animals feed on a wide range of foods provided by the hedgerow.

This could include living leaves, dead leaves (leaf litter), flowers (the pollen and nectar), berries, seeds - and even each other, if they are carnivorous. These feeding links can be represented using food chains and food webs.

Food webs are usually the most accurate way of representing food relationships in hedgerow communities, because many of the hedgerow animals feed on more than one food item.

Curriculum Links

England and Wales - Life Processes and Living Things - 5e - food webs can be composed of several food chains.
Scotland - Understanding Living Things and the Processes of Life - Interaction of living things with their environment (food webs and food pyramids)
Northern Ireland - Living Organisms and Life Processes - Environment (c) (understand the components of food chains and food webs).

Resources

Teacher Sheets
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ; pupil sheet 1, scissors, sharp pencils, stiff card, A4 paper of different colours.

Age range

11 - 14

The Activity

This activity takes the form of a game where each group of students collect 17 cards showing different hedgerow plants or animals. Using the cards collected, groups of students have to construct an accurate food web, containing as many feeding links as possible.

Before playing the game, students will need to understand the basic concepts of food chains and webs, and be confident about drawing them out with the arrows the right way round.

The pictures can be found on Teacher Sheets 1, 2, 3 and 4, and should be photocopied onto the coloured paper or card. Cut the cards out and place in four piles, according to colour. Choose four colours, each to correspond to a particular trophic level: producers (plants), primary consumers (first animal in the food chain - the one that feeds on the plants), secondary consumers (second animal in the food chain), tertiary consumers and quaternary consumers. Make sure you have enough cards of each food item so that each group has a chance of getting it - ie if you have five groups, you need five sparrowhawk cards, and so on, down the web.

Each team starts by collecting a card from each pile. Further cards are chosen using a four-sided spinner . The colour on which the spinner lands determines the pile from which a card is taken. Each team takes it in turn to use the spinner until 15 cards per team have been collected.

Do not allow students to look at the cards until all 15 have been collected, and do not explain that there is any significance to the colours of the cards.

They should now have a selection of cards of all four colours; if not, you will need to exchange some. There will not be a balance of correct cards in each group, but this will help to stress the importance of key species at different levels of feeding. 

Set the teams a deadline by which they should have completed their webs. They can draw them on paper, if you wish, using the same colours as the colours of the cards. The team with the most links in its web is the winner. Cards can then be collected and the game started again.

As a follow-up activity you could discuss which coloured card is always found at the start of a chain (producers) and the order of colours throughout the web. A pattern will emerge, with primary consumers always following producers. Can certain animals be found in different points in chains? In other words, can they feed at more than one trophic level? How many separate food chains can you identify? What species are the 'keystone' species (species which link food chains together)?

Extension Activities 

Students could draw up a more accurate hedgerow food web, using the plants and animals introduced in this game as a starting point, but undertaking some independent research of their own. Students could also consider how available food sources change throughout the year, and construct seasonal hedgerow food webs. 

Another extension activity would be to consider the 'keystone' species. Why are they so important for ensuring the survival of the ecosystem?