Unit B: Environments and Energy

Why are flamingos pink?

1. Get Set to Explore


  • alga: Plantlike organism that lives in water; more than one alga are called algae.
  • crustacean: An animal, such as a shrimp, that lives in water, has a hard shell, and a jointed body and legs.
  • food chain: Shows the order in which energy passes from one living thing to another.
  • food web: Shows how different food chains are related.
  • nutrient: A material in food that animals use to live and grow.
  • predator: An animal that eats other animals.

Building Background

  • Introduce or review the definition of a food chain. Then review the other vocabulary words and definitions with the class.
  • As a demonstration to reinforce the idea of a food chain, show children a chain made of links that you can put together. You might use the plastic links of a baby toy, or the paper chains from the activity introducing Chapter 5, Lesson 1. Explain how each link represents an organism. Point out that putting links of the chain together represents energy passing from one organism to another, when one organism eats the other.
  • Ask children if they have ever seen flamingos, either in the wild or at a zoo. Let volunteers describe the bird and the kind of habitat it lives in. You may wish to show or pass around a picture of a flamingo. Guide children to notice the bird's long legs and long beak. Talk about how these traits are adaptations that help the bird get food. Encourage children to speculate what the flamingo eats.
  • If possible, show a picture of a large group of flamingos. Have children note the color of the birds. Ask them to look for variation in color among the birds.
  • Review the Discover! question: Why are flamingos pink? Explain that the answer to the question relates to what flamingos eat. Tell children that they will learn what flamingos eat by building a food chain on the computer.

2. Guide the Exploration

  • Have children launch the Discover! Simulation and listen closely to the directions. As each set of animals appears on screen, children should first look at the different animals and figure out what each animal might eat. Encourage them to make and share predictions.
  • Review the idea that in a food chain, the arrows show the direction that energy moves. That means that the first box—the box on the left—may have a plant or a plantlike organism. Help children understand why this is true.
  • When you are sure that children understand how organisms are ordered in a food chain, have them test their predictions of what flamingos eat by moving each organism to a spot in the food chain and then clicking the Check button.
  • Once children have ordered the organisms correctly in the first food chain, direct them to work on another food chain by clicking the arrow.

3. Review/Assess

  • Review Step 3's Wrap-Up text with the class, and let volunteers summarize the information in their own words. Ask children to share any observations they have.
  • Present the Extension question to the class: What food chains can you find in the food web? Have children review the different food chains they made during the simulation. They should try to find and trace them in the food web.
  • Encourage children to share the chains that they noticed in the food web. Children should be able to find the following food chains:
    • microalgae; brine shrimp; Caribbean flamingo
    • Caribbean flamingo (eggs); raccoon; jaguar
    • eastern American oyster; blue crab; Kemp's Ridley sea turtle

If time permits, present children with the following questions and activities:

  • Critical Thinking Synthesize Can you find an animal that is part of two different food chains? Answer: the Caribbean flamingo
  • Inquiry Skill Use Models Make a model of one or more of the food chains from the simulation. You might want to label strips of paper, as in the Investigate activity on p. B37. When you are finished, put your chains together to form a food web.

4. Reaching All Learners


Encourage children with a strong interest in animals and ecosystems to find out what is the source of energy for the animals in the oyster food chain. They might use library or Internet resources to learn what oysters eat. (They eat tiny organisms that float in water, including plantlike organisms that make their own food.) Have students extend the oyster food chain, adding a link or a drawing to show what oysters eat. You may wish to ask them to add this information to the food web, as well.