Ocean Food Links


Students will learn how ocean plants and animals interact with the Sun and with each other to live and grow.


Sunlight provides the first step in an interactive food relationship between the Sun and ocean plants and animals. The Sun provides energy necessary for plant growth. Plants, commonly referred to as “producers,” use the Sun's energy to make their own food through photosynthesis. The most important type of plant in the ocean is phytoplankton. It is so small a microscope is needed to see it. In turn, plants provide a source of food for animals that cannot produce their own food. Animals are commonly referred to as “consumers.” While plants do not eat other plants, animals can consume plants or other animals.

What You Need

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What to Do

  1. Ask students if they know how plants and animals live and grow in the ocean. Hold a class discussion about the basic concept of a marine food chain. (See Background.) Ask students if they know what some ocean plants are called (algae, seaweed, kelp) and to name their favorite ocean animal (snail, shrimp, sea star, cod, salmon, shark, tuna, swordfish). Remind students that dolphins and whales are mammals, not fish.
  2. Tell students that they will be making a hanging chart that shows food relationships among the Sun, plants, and animals in the ocean.
  3. Hand out copies of the Food Links Cutouts to each student. Have students begin by cutting out Link 1 for the Sun. Remind students that the Sun provides energy for the plants to grow. Then have students color the Sun.
  4. Now have students cut out Links 2 through 6. Explain to students that the most common plant consumed by animals is microscopic in size. Then have students color the plants green, brown, or red. Then have students punch holes in the tops of Link 3 and Link 5.
  5. Demonstrate to students how to fasten the links with tape or glue. For example, the bottom tab of the Sun link should be attached to the back of Link 4, and the side tab of Link 2 should be attached to the back of Link 3.
  6. Next, have students fasten the side tabs on the plant links in numerical order. Then have students fasten the Sun link to plant Link 4.
  7. Now have students cut out Links 7, 8, and 9. Have students color the fish in any colors they wish. Then have students fasten the fish links to each other in numerical order. Have students fasten the top tab on Link 8 to the back of Link 4.
  8. Next, have students run string or plastic ties through the holes in Links 3 and 5 and attach to a coat hanger. Display students' work in the classroom.

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