Ioan explained to Finny, that all living things need energy to live. He then asked Finn where the energy comes from. Finny knew that it came from food. Ioan went on to explain that plants make their own food from sunlight, air and water. Animals don’t make their own energy, so they need to eat food to survive.
A food chain shows how plants and animals depend on each other as their source of food. The boys discussed their understanding of food chains, at the start of our learning:
Producers and consumers
A food chain always starts with a producer. This is an organism that makes its own food. Most food chains start with a green plant, because plants can make their food by photosynthesis.
A living thing that eats other plants and animals is called a consumer. We broke our consumers into two groups, herbivore consumers (plant eaters) and carnivore consumers (meat eaters).
Predators and prey
A predator is an animal that eats other animals. The animals that predators eat are called prey. Predators are found at the top (or end) of a food chain. In Finny’s words, “The last predator is the biggest and scariest, because it can eat everything else!”
To finish the full circle of life, we looked at what happens after the predators die. Decomposers play a critical role in the flow of energy through an ecosystem. They break apart dead organisms into simpler inorganic materials, making nutrients available to primary producers.
Ioan and Finn are only 6 and 4, so this may seem like we went overboard. But as always, they wanted more information to satisfy their curiosity. So we delved a bit deeper.
Decomposers feed on dead things: dead plant materials such as leaf litter and wood, animal carcasses, and feces. The boys enjoyed imagining what a world without decomposers would look like, with dead leaves, dead insects, dead animals (and of course animal poo!) piled up everywhere.
Decomposers make vital nutrients available to an ecosystem’s primary producers, which are usually plants and algae. Decomposers break apart complex organic materials into more elementary substances: water and carbon dioxide, plus simple compounds containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium. All of these components are substances that plants need to grow.
In summary: A decomposer is an organism that decomposes, or breaks down, organic material such as the remains of dead organisms. Most decomposers are microscopic organisms. Other decomposers are big enough to see without a microscope. Decomposers include bacteria and fungi, along with detritivores (invertebrate organisms) such as earthworms, termites, and millipedes. These organisms carry out the process of decomposition, which all living organisms undergo after death.
They finished off their research with a few renditions of “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King.
DfES Outcomes for EYFS and National Curriculum (2013)
Science Year 1 programme of study
Animals, including humans
- identify and name a variety of common animals that are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores
Science Year 2 programme of study
Living things and their habitats
- describe how animals obtain their food from plants and other animals, using the idea of a simple food chain, and identify and name different sources of food.
Science Year 4 programme of study
Animals, including humans
- construct and interpret a variety of food chains, identifying producers, predators and prey.