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Mount Kisco Fourth Graders Learn About Food Webs

students examine a cockroach

Some students’ eyes lit up with interest while others pulled back, peering at the creature in the Center for Environmental Education leader’s hand with disgust. Inside her palm sat a cockroach.

“Decomposers are the clean-up crew for the environment,” she told Gloria Pulgarin’s Mount Kisco Elementary School fourth graders as she walked around the room. “They break things down and turn them into nutrient-rich soil.”

The cockroach came at the end of the presentation, which explained food webs and how energy is transferred from the sun to different kinds of consumers.

At the beginning of her presentation, Environmental Educator Julia King asked students what they knew about energy transfer. Maeve’s hand was one of the first to fly into the air.

“The grass takes nutrients from the sun,” she said. “The animal gets nutrients from that and it goes on and on from there.”

King expanded on students’ knowledge of food chains by teaching them about food webs, which are layers of food chains on top of one another. She then explained the differences between producers and different kinds of consumers, letting students touch different examples of each of the things they spoke about from a pinecone to raccoon fur and even an alligator skull.

“That feels like my cat’s fur but ten times fluffier!” one student said of the raccoon fur.

“Oh, those teeth are sharp!” another said of the alligator.

After learning about where different animals fall in a food web, students played a game that helped demonstrate the importance of balance in an ecosystem. The game, called “Grass, Deer, Coyote,” tasked students with choosing whether to be grass, deer or a coyote with the understanding that the class had to work together to make sure someone from each of the categories survived.

During the first round, no one chose to be grass — which meant the deer and coyote couldn’t survive. Students had to work together to figure out a way to keep the balance.

“Everyone needs enough resources and they’re all happening at the same time,” King said.

The presentation was a great hands-on enrichment experience that asked students to think, communicate and ask questions about what they were learning.

students touch a pinecone